As of late, I’ve started thinking about my life with ambivalence. I think that we all are a little bit ambivalent about our endeavours, but since I drifted into the land of Those Who Don’t Work, contrasting feelings have washed upon me like crashing washes, crashing being the operative word here.
And so one moment I am all hard-done by, inadequate, deprived, even poor. In reality, I am none of these things and, believe me, I am the first one to recognise the signs of this ironically self-inflicted consumerist paranoia. I am thinking of yesterday for example, swinging a little bag of chocolates (eight) that cost almost seven pounds, on my way to the IMAX screening of Watchmen (ten pounds), which also cost me eight pounds in parking and three pounds on coffee. But as I walked through Selfridges it was easy to feel deprived as the lack of world-wide jet-setting job as mine used to be has put a bit of a downer on the impulse purchases of Christian Dior shoes. I surprised myself walking around shaking my head, telling Rich that not long ago you could buy a decent pair of shoes for just short of £ 250 and now, look at this, you need at least £ 300. Inflation you see.
And that’s the bad side. The good side is the sense of deliverance from the grind. I am not exaggerating on this one but I really do feel like I’ve won the bloody lottery jackpot, even though I haven’t seen a penny in months. When I used to get up at some ungodly hour in order to be at some ungodly office in some godforsaken place, I remember very clearly zooming past in my car, longingly peering at the people perched on the stalls at eight in the morning, mug in one hand, paper folded in quarters in the other at my Starbucks. How many times did I mentally sigh at those who had the luxury of legging it down to their local for the sole purpose of grabbing a leisurely java and reading the latest. Crucially, the Dior shoes did not matter one iota then. Now that I too can do that, and on a couple of occasions last week that’s exactly what I did, walked around Wilmslow when nobody was around yet, stopping for coffee and a read when some whisk in to collect their to-gos and make it back to their sad little offices, it’s all fabulous and electrifying. It’s like discovering that there is life beyond the office walls. It’s a magnificent feeling of independence that, even after six months, feels as novel and crackling as it did on the first day of freedom.
Yet, and here’s the cinch, I shift from deprived to elated, from inadequate to mindless, twenty times a day. Maybe fifty. Maybe even one hundred. And anything could trigger it off. The latest Harrods mag falling through the letterbox (deprived), Louise giving me a ring and inviting me out for a quick coffee (elated) in endless waves. Up and down, up and down, up and down.
This itself however isn’t the crux of the problem. The real problem is this ingrained, puritan and entirely Anglo-American malaise that dictates we should work and that this work should happen somewhere out of the house and should be paid for. I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard as I do now, what with the latest leg of my research, with the Watchmen review and with another book proposal all on the cards at the same time, yet, as I do not go to an office, it’s like this is not work. Quite frankly, I don’t know how housewives do it; is it possible to work within the home, unpaid, and still feel like a valuable member of, if not society, at least one’s own household? Because, quite frankly, I don’t think it is.
And the truth is, I am on a quest to finding it out how to live happily (and feel elated, electrified, free if not all the time at least most of the time) without feeling deprived and unable to shell out on chocolates/ shoes/ bags/ fill in the blank as I please. There must must must be a way, a way other than upgrading husband which, at the moment, just doesn’t seem feasible. Husband upgrades only really work with middle-aged women who have the guts and the experience to make a bee-line for the guy in the Aston Martin and not to those like me, who barely notice him roaring past and overtaking me on the way to horsey. I couldn’t even tell you what colour his Aston Martin is. Must be because there are so many around here.
And so it was extremely timely that today a friend of mine called and told me a little about her current job search, eventually bursting out with: ‘Oooooh I just don’t want to work Steph’. Well, blow me right down. A woman after my own heart.