The people on the corner appear to be building a house in their garden. Initially, I thought they were just demolishing the garages but over the weeks more and more of the grass has given way to foundations.
Walking the dogs with my sister I joke that I won’t be surprised to see the excavations extend so far that, one day, we’ll walk along to find that everything, including the original house, has been demolished for a new vast one.
It all looks like such a lot of effort and stress.
These days, the rhythm of my life is steady, predictable and unremarkable, but it wasn’t always like that.
For years I thought I thrived on the chaos inside and outside. Proudly announcing to anyone who would listen that I didn’t really feel stressed and I didn’t get anxious.
What I didn’t understand was that stress is not always something which presents itself in a way which says “I am stress”. Instead, it set about undermining me in the face of my temerity to doubt its considerable heft.
It was the same with anxiety. On reflection, I don’t think I knew what it was for years. Unaware that emotional instability can be subtle and obscure as well as brutal and brazen.
Always prolific creatively but wholly reluctant to perform, drawn constantly towards connection but terrible at being connected, an aversion to parties and small talk which verged on the psychotic, and a persistent habit of avoiding all conflict, especially if I had been the cause of it. All of these were forms of anxiety, and all of them chronically damaging without my realising.
Recovery is not, as I had once thought, the eradication of these difficulties. Instead, it has been the gradual coming to terms with and management of the aspects of myself I have found most challenging, annoying and downright frightening.
Recovery is also a life’s work.
I learned that I cannot be whole if I reject the parts of me I find unhelpful and, if I cannot be whole, I can never feel OK.
I learned too that nothing and nobody from outside can do this work for me.
So change came to me in stages.
The first felt like the worst of all destructions but was, in fact, a raising to the ground of a life which had become unsustainable. It left me bereft and shell-like but it also cleared space on which to rebuild.
The second stage was an acknowledgment that I could never go back to who I was. When I ceased to exist in the way that I knew myself it was disorienting and humbling and liberating in equal measure.
The third stage was the establishment of an environment in which I could thrive. Stripped of complexity to the point that it may look to some very much like emptiness. Paradoxically, it is as full as life has ever been.
So maybe I look with so much interest at the house on the corner because it’s such a powerful metaphor. The idea of sacrificing most of my garden in order to build another house leaves me cold, whatever the financial benefits. But raising the whole lot to the ground and starting again? Now that’s a plan which might have some legs.