Welcome to Carolyn Cowan Online; Designer, photographer, teacher, mother, counsellor and bodypainter.
Archive for March, 2011
I went to the theatre last night with a friend. We went to see a new play that had no reviews…. Enough said. But dinner afterwards was at Joe Allens in Exeter Street. Thirty years later, I could not remember where the loos were, but it all came flooding back as I descended into the brick walled room….. The drunken evenings, the cocaine in the toilets, the Bloody Marys, me and my friends at twenty something, rolling out of Rumours, the cocktail bar round the corner and staggering noisily into dinner at Joes. It was an institution and one that had slipped out of my thoughts completely.
As I sat down, I looked up into the room and there, a few tables away, still utterly resplendent was the beautiful Michelle Paradise, thirty years later. Time had folded and we were both still wearing red lipstick. Neither of us works in the industry where we met, but we have moved on into similar fields: the endless fascination with empowerment.
So the introduction is that I looked good. I had made an effort to go to the theatre: excellent haircut, slim, wearing a skirt I have not worn for 12 years, and a tight fitting black V necked T shirt.
As I brushed my teeth, looking at myself in the mirror I wondered what my new haircut looked like from the back. With an electric toothbrush still whizzing it’s way gaily round my jaw I turned to hold up a mirror to see the back of me. I have a certain way that I look at myself in the mirror. I lift my chin, slightly pull in my checks, tighten my belly and smile slightly. All of this is an attempt, mostly successful, to diminish the pain of looking at the parts of me that do not behave as I desire them to.
I will digress here… When my children were small, and my daughter had really long hair, I had this ongoing story about Invisible Pigs in velvet waistcoats and smoking hats that had combs dipped in honey. Every night they would dance around Isadora’s bed whilst she slept, tangling her hair with the honey dipped combs. It was a funny story that trailed along with us for years and if Isadora tripped over, she had fallen over an Invisible Pig.
I now know that the Invisible Pigs have a new remit: Adjust the flesh on my body in areas that I cannot change, flex or suck in. Make sure the changes are permanent, depressing and true to type.
So I return to last night, the tooth brush whirring away but slowing down as my gaze swept across my 51 year old rear view. Damme, frankly. Not what I want others to see or know is going on as I gaily trip out of the room, walk away, storm off, turn to do something else or present my back whilst I work, cook, read, or any number of other daily tasks that require my attention to be turned away from the gaze of the person looking at me.
I jest, in a way, I do.
I do not enjoy the ageing process, tis true, but I am doing it quite well considering all the drink, drugs, mayhem, smoking, sunbathing and hooliganism that my life has largely consisted of. It is just that when I look at the front, as long as I am concentrating, I have quite a lot of control over it all….. my mirror face is good. But the back, my back, the chocolate mousse under the arms, the bra lines, the waist, there is no way that I can bend it to my will.
Coming back to the mirror, I exhaled, released about thirty muscles down the front of my body, took a long hard look at me now, shrugged, put down the mirror, released the toothbrush from it’s slavery and went to bed thinking about time, thirty years ago and the horror of 51 year old under arm flesh.
The only good news, according to the delightful woman at Rigby & Peller, the Queens Brassier Constructors, is that all women have it…. But that does not make me feel any better about it. A long flared coat is the only way forward……
I did promise I would write and I have sat back many times and thought about what to say….. it leads me into the realms of my personal life in ways that I am not comfortable with. I have contemplated what I could write that skirts the issues, but all seems to just wind endlessly around the same drawing pins stuck in my notions of what is an acceptable landscape and in the end I find I am not being honest which ultimately defeats the purpose of it all and the need for openness about the Human Condition is the basis of what fuels my writing.
So I am neatly back round to myself and my reality: Do I write weblog or do I shy away from public disclosure of my reality?
Clearly I have made the decision to write.
I am the mother of two delightful children and in July last year I instigated divorce proceedings against the man I married 18 years ago.
Of course there is a bigger picture as to why, and the broadest brush can say I have been unhappy for years, for such a long time, that I woke up on my 50th birthday last year, in February, and realised that there was no way I could live the second half of my life being so deeply unhappy. It is a big decision to make and one that has had and continues to have huge ramifications in my life. It is scary and stressful, slow and painful, but there is not a moment when I regret my decision. It is just taking a long time to get to where I really want to be in my life; To unravel the possessions, the behaviour patterns, the choices, compromises and unspoken longings and desires that have built up into an intolerable wall of pain that I now need to take apart, concept by concept, without causing unnecessary suffering and pain to our two children.
The choices I now make have polarised friendships, led to big changes in how I run my business and have left me feeling very isolated, but then that in turn creates new friendships, new behaviour patterns and new learning curves, all of which I really enjoy. Judgements by others have, in the main been bearable, but there are moments when people show themselves in the harshest and most intolerable light and I wonder if I ever really knew them at all. By the same token, other lesser known acquaintances have become extraordinary friends and exhibited great emotional generosity and I find that I wonder how I never saw this side to them. And there are those to whom my actions appear terrifying: The very idea that I could stand up and say I am unhappy and that I have had enough, they reel against, turning away in fear and a certain disgust is apparent as though they are witnessing road kill happen. How could I dare? Is written across their faces, but at the same time there is a fascination for the notion that it is possible, but ultimately too many structures are threatened and the only way forward is to turn away. So turn away they do.
The process has not unravelled itself as I had imagined it would. It is harder, more tangled, far more subtle and more gross than I hoped or dared to think, it has taken far, far longer to get where I am now than I ever thought, and I feel as if I have made no progress at all. As I turn to the possibility of a court divorce, I realise that I have not even met real stress yet. I need lessons in how to adjust my mind to allow things to unfold, not to see each step as profoundly personal, but part of a bigger process that is a massive beast that will ultimately bite all of us. That thought can stop me in my track, but time spent living as I currently live instantly reminds me that I have no option but to find a way through and out.
I have had to use all of my tools, the meditation, the running, breathing practices and tools to still my mind, over and over again, I have honed my practices until they are second nature to me. I have better boundaries, I am clearer in my communications and more circumspect in my disclosures. I feel endlessly aware of my children and the consequences to them but had no choice but to effect this massive change in all our lives. Will they be ok? I really do work to do my best for them in all decisions and actions. I went through my parents’ unhappy marriages without over being told what was happening until it was a done deed. That was a profoundly disturbing experience that had repercussions for all of us and for some, still does. Marriages made without notice to us, divorces, moving house overnight, boarding school the next day. It was a horrifying bad dream that I thought I would never wake up from.
Whether I do the right thing in being open to my kids, I can only pray that I do, I have been open and clear about every step I take. I have instigated a policy of telling the truth about the situation, why, what is happening, where I am with it and what comes next. To break the no talk rule seemed to me to be one of the most important steps I could take. To have spent so long in a conspiracy of silence, of learned behaviour passed down through generations, is a terrible act. I will no longer play along. So openness and it’s subsequent consequences are my only route and friend now. The status quo will no longer be maintained or bolstered by my silence and compliance. It has to be held open, bare and present. I have made the right decision, I want to be divorced and as I look to the future I am happier than I have ever been since making these changes and seeing that there is a future ahead.
So now it is out. I have told as much of my reality as I can in this strange land that is the world wide web. In future I want to write more openly about what it takes, as a 50 year old woman, to go on, what I face and fear and the triumphs as I step further into being myself. I hope that what I say resonates with other women who have had similar experiences: divorce whilst running a business, a marriage contract not in my language, nor in my country, a large mortgage and the joy of debt.