… there you are.
I couldn’t have done this hobo nomadic thing before now. I guess I could, but it would have been very different. Before it would have been about getting away from something or trying to find something I didn’t have. I don’t feel like there’s anything I want to get away from or anywhere that I’m trying to get to today. There are some things that I feel like I should do – some things that are just in my head and on scraps of notebook and stuff at the moment and it would be disappointing for them to stay there forever, but I feel like (at least for today) I’ve let go of the fantasy that “When I have X…” or “When I’m Y enough…” or “When I’ve done Z…” then I’ll be able to be happy etc.
One of the things that I’ve come to know better through wandering is the recognition that any turmoil, drama or crisis is happening within me, it’s not the outside circumstances, it’s not the people I’m hanging out with, it’s the story that I have playing in my head. That’s what causes me any pain or disturbance. Other people may be sharing in it, but they’re having a different experience, for different reasons and doubtless playing out a different drama. And I’m 100% responsible for my own feelings about it. And that empowers me greatly, because then there’s something I can do about how I feel, I’m not dependent on anyone else for it. I can look back at my early decisions about the world and see where I’m fighting to be right about something in the face of the present reality. Because those feelings most often stem from wanting to be right about the world, wanting things to be as I’ve decided them. Wanting them to be as I decided probably 40 years ago or more.
What sort of decisions am I talking about? All sorts of things, but you can recognise them primarily by the toddler tone “I don’t need anyone’s help; Nobody loves me; Girls always steal your stuff and break it”. They’re just a selection of my favourites.
The ones that give me most pain now are things like “I don’t fit in, I’m not like everyone else, I’m not welcome here.” I remember clearly when I thought that for the first time. You see the big white van in the picture above? In 1969, people didn’t park their cars up in front of their houses like that, all the houses had walls and front gardens. But on that spot in front of the house that now has a white van, when I was four years old and newly arrived in the Croft, I went over to play with the kids from the street for the first time. I was wearing a grey duffle coat. I don’t know what happened really, some pushing, shoving, shouting? demands for money? a big push, a punch perhaps, tears? – but I came away quite convinced that I didn’t fit in that I was not welcome. And I strongly associated it with that spot. Whenever I wanted to replay the episode to bolster my belief that I’m an outsider (probably with embellishment to suit the context) I saw the toggle on my duffle coat, the lichen on the garden wall, the cold greyness of the pavement. These are the ways that we keep these things alive. A strong association with a place. And in time I’ve come to imagine that it’s still there, some remnant of the scuffle, the emotional upheaval, marking the spot in the road.
I went back there a week or so ago and knew that it wasn’t there at all. It’s never been anywhere but in my head. It’s just not there, it’s forgotten by all but me. What if I was wrong in the initial formation of that decision, what if I was wrong in all of the evidence I’ve gathered over the years to support my belief in it? What then? How might I live differently then?
So here’s something about how wrong I can be. When I was walking there, taking the picture above, I thought “Oh, they’ve moved that telegraph pole, it used to be on the other side of the road” I was quite sure of it. I thought it was very odd, I mean why would you move a telegraph pole just a few yards to the other side of the road? You’d have to connect all the lines up again and everything, it doesn’t make sense, but my memory was very clear – after all, it was not just a telegraph pole in those days, it was the acky post and as such the centre of our communal lives through those long hot summers of childhood (us, you know the kids in the street, the ones that I didn’t get on with… or well at some point i must have…). Anyway – so when I got back from my walk I got ready to write a post about the moving of the acky post and to provide proof of my discovery I went to look at this picture of my sister in about 1971 riding along that bit of pavement. And of course I found that I was wrong. The telegraph pole had always been in the same place. The lamp-post has been modified and the paving slabs have been replaced with tarmac, but the telegraph pole is in just the same position as it was 40 years ago. It was only ever somewhere else in my head.