It’s been weeks since I wrote anything.
At the time, I was grappling with my obsession with something that Ellen Terry said to Noel Coward many years before I was born: “You’ll never amount to anything unless you learn to curb your versatility.”
I was a versatile little monster in my youth… and I never amounted to anything.
On top of that, in the past few months, I’d had an attack of versatility like nothing I’ve known since my late teens, when I wrote, painted, acted, sang, and played guitar. I’d been blogging. I started writing poetry again… real stuff, like sonnets, not just the haiku with which I’ve whiled away my creativity in recent years. I started painting again… canvas after canvas of portraits, better than any I’d ever painted in my youth, inching closer and closer to the quality I long to attain.
In part, I was delighted… but an old voice within me tormented me with venomous power.
“Are you wasting your time again?”
“Are you fiddling around when you could be doing something of value?”
“Do you think you’re ever going to make a living at this nonsense?”
“How can you ever expect to amount to anything if this is all you do?”
“You’re destined to fail.”
I hated that voice.
I hated that voice, but the thought of being disloyal to the speaker filled me with guilt.
That’s a sentence I could have written in present tense.
The speaker insisted he spoke out of love and concern. He loved me so much he annihilated my spirit and poisoned my soul… as he reminded me of my debt to him, and of my duty to give him unquestioning love.
I’m sixty three years old. It’s time the old pain subsided, and forgiveness drove away resentment.
But I don’t think it works that way.
And then, I had such a great surprise.
After spending an entire day painting, I expected my husband to be angry because dinner wouldn’t be ready when he came home from work.
As he walked in the house, I was putting away the paints and brushes.
“I’m so glad you’re doing this,” he said.
“I’m so glad you’re painting again. It makes you happy, and everyone loves your work.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“You’re not wasting your time anymore. You’re doing something you enjoy.”
I don’t think I’ve ever loved my husband more.
Suddenly, the most subversive thought entered my mind. “I wish he’d been my parent.”
That’s a cruel thing to think. It’s a cruel thing to feel. I know that sacrifices were made in order to “raise me right.” I know that the best of intentions were always in play.
Nonetheless, I wonder what it would have been like to be encouraged and supported spiritually and vocationally, as well as financially, in those crucial years when my versatility was budding.
Maybe I could have amounted to something.
Maybe I still could… although I’ve discovered something else.
It no longer matters.
I don’t have to amount to anything. I’m an old woman. I won’t be growing up now. I won’t be raising a family anymore. I won’t be forging a career. I won’t be making a living. I did that. It’s done.
Now, I do what I do for the sheer pleasure of expressing myself.
And I live with a man, a glorious, beautiful, loving man who doesn’t think it’s a waste of my time.
I am the luckiest woman in the world.