It all began with the new car. A gleaming shining Acura. By all accounts a lovely car and one I have often looked at when we've driven past. Thinking 'not us' but lovely all the same. Clean, grown up, able to seat 7 people all neatly in a row. Well rows plural. But still - a great family car. SUV - which I always swore I would not could not ... no not that. Really it should be a VW for me - an old one like the yellow one my great-aunt used to drive and which was really not reliable at all but oh, it had such character. A new one would be good too. Pink or green or red, with a daisy in the front. A fun car, not too serious. Or a mini cooper, my other love - in dark blue with silver stripes. Or red. Or a jeep - battered and well driven over many roads. Life lived. A car where feet could be bare and there would be trickles of beach sand and a sarong or too tossed in the back - sketchbooks and camera and a coffee cup or two. Beaded angel and a feather hanging from the windscreen. Windows open and music on load. CD's all on the seat. Never tidy. A car for driving driving and not knowing where the road would take me. Sunsets and cacti and exploring.
So yes, I know the car symboizes a kind of mid life crisis - sort of - more the choices made and the life lived, or not lived as the case might be. Because the new car is all about the mom-drives-kids-and-friends-to-playdates and great for family outings but it's solid and big and really no fun at all. There is not one patch of wildness or rebellion in this car. It is as predictable and safe as you would want a family car to be. And yet. The jeep or the mini or the Beetle - well they could still have a streak, quiet but there - the one that just leaves in the middle of a dinner party and throws shoes in the flower beds on the way to the road. The one that always has a bag ready in the trunk for the adventure suddenly calling. And yes, I guess I am feeling a little adrift in so many ways right now - it's been quite a roller coaster of a year and no matter how much I tried to change things up, find a new direction - even put down roots which would be new for me - it's just not gone anywhere. Spectacularly so. No subtlety about the universe telling me this year that i am not going anywhere. Literally and figuratively. And it is eating me up inside. Trying to understand what to do next - where to go. Why I have to stay.
And much as I want a home and we have been trying for six years to buy here in the States, mostly in New York, here is the deepest problem for me ... my heart is somewhere else, always. No matter how much I try to distract it. Really my heart is back in South Africa .. somewhere in the Eastern Cape where i studied and found my freedom. Somewhere between the town with church steeples and so many memories, through the valleys lined with aloes and red dust, through to the sea with the sand and the open skies. My life for three beautiful years and the place I really started growing up. Growing into me. I had good friends there and people to look up to ... I was painting and surrounded by new ideas, art, creativity. There are people from my old life who stayed and put down roots in that place in Africa and they are connected to each other and to the place I once loved, have grown businesses and are making beautiful work. I wanted to travel and there were so many reasons why I had to leave, both Grahamstown and South Africa ... and yes, I got to live in different places I had never imagined, and I got to try new things and discover a little more of the world. But deep inside I am still the girl with the torn denim shorts and indian shirt wearing big steel capped hiking boots and leather bracelets, dreaming of sculptures and going swimming in the sea. Watching art movies in the old theater with the velvet curtains on a Friday night before going drinking and long intense talks over glasses of red wine. I look at photos and see those people now, older but still so familiar and it's as if the years have fallen away and I am right back there, with all my unmade choices in front of me. How different life would have been if ... could have been if ...
And yet I am grateful for what I have too ... it's just that it no longer feels altogether right, any of it. And i'm not sure what needs changing and what needs to stay the same. Or how to find out. Or what to do about it.
And I guess what I am really battling with on so many levels is who I have become and where I am going. It has hit me only very recently that I feel like i have been living someone else's life ... a little bit of what someone else wanted for me and with me, and a little of what I thought I wanted and could be, should be. And actually I don't want to drive an Acura and have a normal house in the suburbs. Actually I want to be back at home with crooked walls and a corrugated iron roof where when it rains it feels like the rain will break through right into the living room. Where the roads get dusty and you can drive for miles without seeing another car. Where family can gather on my back verandah and the children are used to running around outside without their shoes on.
So where do i go from here ? I am thinking and thinking and finding that I don't really want to talk very much at all. I am wondering how to find that balance between my life now and the life I want to live. I think about Georgia O'Keefe and her amazing balance - how as much as i love her paintings, most of all what inspires me is how she spent time in New York and being married but she also had time alone in the desert-like beauty of New Mexico. Which for me would be the Eastern Cape or somewhere towards the Karoo. Dusty town where I can see the stars at night. And i remember how to paint. And the words flow. Where I don't have to make conversation or brush my hair too often. Where I can have a bench in the garden to sit with a glass of wine while the sun sets quietly. Dust on my feet, paint on my hands. A far cry from car pools and playdates and a backyard the size of a postage stamp. But how does that tie in with motherhood and good schools and wanting the best for them. Which would be what exactly ? Every culture would have a different definition of what would be best. Every family too i guess.
So where to go from here ? I am wide open to any suggestions. Am hoping the universe sends me some. I am trying to write it all out and through and to find my way through with words. Not here on the blog. Just quietly, on my own. Word for word, stumbling along trying to put it all down. In my dreams I am back there in the heat of Africa with my choices still unmade.
What would I choose differently. How would it work out? What if I had never left? What if i had not walked away. Where would I be then. Who would i be ?
Maybe I would be more myself - without an aching heart.