Friday, August 13, 2004

It Matters 

So. It does matter. And I’d almost managed to convince myself that it didn’t. But if I’d succeeded, it would have been an unfortunate mistake.

I woke at about 4.00am feeling a deep disappointment, like an ill-defined awareness that an opportunity to attain something precious had been taken away from me. I couldn’t place it at first; it was just an isolated feeling that I couldn’t connect with any particular event as the source. The kind of inner ache a child feels without yet understanding why he feels it, making it all the more unbearable for him. Then as I swam sluggishly into semi-consciousness, I knew. It matters.

It matters that I wont be taking my usual week of camping in the hills this summer. Yeah, I know, pathetic. You thought it was something big. But it’s not the camping for it’s own sake, nor the mountains for theirs, not even the close-to-nature experience. They are all important to me, but not so vital that I can’t do without them. This is something deeper, more fundamental than that. It’s losing the one week of the year when I can be completely myself, no constraints, no demands, no compromises, no pretence. A week of utter selfishness doing what I want to do, and being who I want to be. Maybe even being who I am. One week that makes the other 51 a little more bearable. The thought strikes me out of the blue that every photo I’ve posted here, in fact pretty much every photo I’ve taken in the last 5 years has come from one of those weeks.

I thought I was being unduly negative when I came up with a whole string of “yes, buts” attached to the main holiday week: yes, I’ll still be spending time among the hills; yes, I’ll be able to do some walking; yes, I’ll be able to take some photos; yes, I may even get some rock climbing done. But no, I wont have that space to be free. Or more accurately, I wont feel as if I do. That may be a significant distinction; I’m not sure. The big 'but' is that those activities will be contained within a framework of domesticity, neatly shrunk and packaged into available timeslots in the schedule.

I love my family; I know I will truly enjoy this week spent exclusively with them. I’m also just beginning to learn to love myself as well, learning to value time spent at ease with being myself. But I haven’t yet learned how to combine these two.

It may hurt a little, and it may be self-pity, but it was worth waking at 4.00am for, and worth taking the train to work instead of cycling so that I could think this through. At least I now have a better understanding of why these times in the hills feel so important to me. Amazing really that it had never occurred to me this way before.

This is learning I should be able to apply. Unlike the child who doesn’t know the source of his inner ache and so remains subject to it, powerless to do anything about it, I at least know why, which puts me in a position to transcend it. I guess I should say thank you to my subconscious for bringing it to my attention.

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