It’s happened time and again over the years, others intruding on my boundaries. It happens repeatedly, determinedly, in a steady drip-drip that eventually causes me to let down my defences. A slow, stealthy creeping into my personal space, a disruption of carefully planned routines. It is the neighbour who comes by for a friendly cuppa too often, a box of Jaffa Cakes in tow. It is my mum or gran, making an over-abundance of steaming, hot curry, bringing us a portion and gently wrapping those threads of family life even tighter around me. It is the friend who asks haltingly, if I can possibly make time for her. It is the kindly man from the mosque or the distant uncle who says, you are missed, where have you been? Leave me be, I think, nothing is for free. My ungratefulness seeps out of every pore, like a putrid gas, waiting to poison us all.
But oh, my stories, they yearn to get out, and they require solitude. Solitude. How I love that word. My stories, you see, long not to be rushed and crave the time to simply be, to blossom into a wondrous narrative or wilt on their own terms. And this life of mine, with its great swarms of loving people just waiting on the sidelines to be entertained, supported and loved in return, isn’t accommodating of this writing dream.
‘Are you coming tomorrow?’
‘No, I can’t. I’m writing.’
‘You should really try and come.’
‘I have a project I’m working on and I’d really like to finish’.
‘How about you just pop in for an hour or so?’
The fault is also mine, of course. Why am I unable to articulate my needs so that they are acknowledged? When I manage to create some space, how do I end up back at square one with a diary full of commitments I would rather not have, feeling loved but suffocated? Perhaps it is my failing that friends and family can’t accept a ‘no’ graciously. Should I be clearer or more forceful? Can I enforce my boundaries without causing hurt to those I love? Can I love them selfishly on my terms or will my part-time love be ridiculed, like a half-baked meringue that refuses to live up to its promise?
Maybe this writer dream is too implausible for my family and friends to buy into. Who makes money with writing nowadays (money being the only measure of success, of course)… and why would I flitter away my time without the certainty of a return on my investment? Or perhaps they think I am not the writer type. Maybe I need to shout my dream from the rooftops with Bollywood backing dancers behind me for them to take me seriously. Or should I aspire to be more writerly, say, hang out at chic writer parties or in coffee-shops, or try to look more like a brooding, angst-filled loner? Do I need wilder hair or to be more emotional?
Now that would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? So this here, is my battle-cry. RRRRROAAAARRRRRRR!! And this stick figure here, with the door closed, is the new me. I won’t feel guilty about it. I will let you in when I can, but sometimes I won’t be able to because I don’t want to risk losing the magic in this wonderful scene I am writing. Please don’t take it personally. I love you very much, I really do, but this part of me has to be private. It needs time to breathe. My writing is a priority, you see, and no, it isn’t a hobby. It’s much more than that. I might tell you about how it feels one day. I will support you to achieve your dreams in any way I can, so please, if you love me, just take a little step back and respect what it takes to achieve mine.
‘I don’t think people should have boundaries put on them, by themselves or society or another gender, because it’s our birthright to experience life in whatever way we feel best suits us.’ Hilary Swank
‘Once you label me you negate me.’ Soren Kierkegaard