At the moment I still define myself by what I was, and what I have lost.
I used to live in a family. I used to be a wife. At one time this was all that I wanted – although I hadn’t known I wanted it until it began to seem possible. Unfortunately, the family (which consisted of me, my daughter, my husband and my stepson) was not as possible as it seemed. In fact, it was an impossible fantasy, which we could only believe in by drinking to blur the sharp edges of reality (me and my husband, not the kids). Even my husband, in his calmer moments, can acknowledge that.
Still, 6 months after leaving, if you asked me who am, I would say that last March, I was a wife and a stepmother, and today, I am only a mother – and I don’t even feel like that some days, as my daughter grows up. I have lost something huge. Sometimes it almost feels like 50% of myself, but at other times it feels as if I have taken back parts of myself that were lost. So maybe I’m only 25% down.
To continue with trying to quantify my life, then, I could tell you that in my first 40 years, I’ve acquired:
a 12 year old daughter
two angry exes
too many books
a penchant for cheap wine, and fine words
a Fiat Ka with a huge scrape in the side, which has proved an unprecedented gift for any passing man looking for an opportunity to talk about the inferior driving abilities of women
some assorted scraps of wisdom
a laptop donated to me by my Mum
a reasonably paid job
a ferociously pink coat which no longer suits me (I do not look good in pink any more. But, my last boss said I look really good on paper)
I have lost:
aforementioned husband and stepson
my 12 year old daughter (in spirit at least. She’s relegated me to a dusty attic, as a thing of the past; or would, if she could)
several jobs and one career
a box filled with all the letters that anyone ever wrote to me, before we had the Internet (maybe I am a relic of the past)
one of my favourite pair of black boots
a houseful of furniture and appliances
I am two parts sadness, one part happiness and one part empty.
Every morning I get on the tram for my commute into the city, and I still feel excited to be doing this. Every morning I remember that I am no longer a wife and no longer a stepmother and no longer living in a family. Now I am travelling into the city to earn a living. Every morning the squealing of the tram on the tracks sounds like the heavy dragging of my heart, yet when it grinds to a halt and I move out with the hordes into the crowded streets, my step quickens and I marvel that I have this freedom. That I can be allowed out from the confines of single motherhood and a bad marriage, into this wide open space: This adventure.