In the mid-eighties, I went on holiday to Corfu with my friend Adam. It was the first time I had flown and the first time I felt consciously out of control.
Late one Friday the 13th as the plane sped down the runway towards take-off I thought to myself,
“My body has never travelled at this speed. I have no comprehension of this. I have no control.”
Terror and excitement in equal measure. I wanted it to stop but I was eager for it to continue.
This memory came up when I was explaining in supervision, to myself as it turned out, what exactly it is I have been feeling these past weeks.
“Anxiety anchors itself here in my body,” I said, pointing to the middle of my chest, “And I’ve felt it there for weeks.”
It doesn’t forecast catastrophe, but it doesn’t rule it out either.
Situations are converging and I have stared at them for answers when it appears as if it might not just be the world that is changing, but me as well.
My son and his girlfriend have one foot in their new London flat, a relatively sprawling space with doors opening onto a small garden with a wild rose creeping up the wall and where I imagine them laughing with friends over barbecues on sultry summer evenings.
At home, a normal chair sits beneath the oak desk where his fancy ergonomic one once was.
Computer screens, boxes of files, and other technical paraphernalia are piled high on top of it with a jacket laid across waiting for collection.
Then he will be gone.
I remind others frequently that our children are only on loan to us, but my behaviour suggests that I may be finding it hard to reconcile now that I am facing the absence myself.
For years, there has been a palpable shortage of seats in the living room when all six of us are in there plus the two dogs.
So I bought a new sofa which is being delivered next week now that there won’t be anyone home to sit on it.
The loft, untouched forever has always promised useful additional storage space but it seemed an unnecessary cost to get it boarded, fix up a light and install a loft ladder.
There will be less stuff to store when the children are gone so I’ve commissioned someone to do the work now that there’s nothing to put up there.
I don’t recognise this man inhabiting me, the one who has sprung into action now that action is no longer obviously required.
When I moved my writing to Substack from Mailchimp I did so because it seemed sensible to put it where other people put their writing but being surrounded by so many writers, all of whom seem to be more proficient than me, has made me think about why I do it and whether it matters.
I wrote recently about the importance of making art for yourself before thinking about who else wants it and now I realise I was unconsciously addressing myself.
I think about not writing this newsletter anymore.
Maybe taking a break from a habit I have formed and religiously executed every single week for nearly thirteen years will be good for me but it’s hard to know whether I’m considering it because I’m suffering a crisis of confidence that I don’t know how to change or because I am changing and feel a new confidence in letting go of what I have always held tight.
On TikTok, I post countless earnest video clips from our podcast.
I pore over the material and try to pick out the most useful pieces of wisdom from each episode.
They attract little attention.
This week I tried something different and posted a clip of us discussing seagulls swooping down and stealing people’s joints as they’re rolling them up and how they have developed a liking for “the zombie drug” Spice.
At the time of writing it has had 2600 views and been commented on and shared more times than every “serious” clip I’ve ever posted put together.
For a long time now I have been settled on the idea that the small and routine life I have created for myself is the one that I want but something within me appears unconvinced and is apparently prepared to disrupt things determined to shake things up
In the conversation with my supervisor, she used the phrase, “I am not the doer”.
I can’t tell you what came directly before or after because I became snagged on those words.
I have no idea what is happening but I know I am not the doer.
It is uncomfortable and frightening, invigorating and exciting.
I have tried to work out what has been causing this anxiety in the middle of my chest like a physical growth grafted onto my sternum when what I really needed was to surrender, to experience it for what it is, something I cannot control, cannot imagine, and cannot rationalise.
The flight to Corfu in the 80s was the first time I had been on holiday without my parents and the first time I had travelled abroad.
In every photo from that trip, I look happy and free in a way that does not feel typical of the tightness and constriction that have been familiar throughout my life.
Like the feeling of hurtling up a runway, a heady mix of fear and curiosity, perhaps a loss of control isn’t always a bad thing.