Thursday morning. Groggy post-op, I was sitting on the Bakerloo line, eye patch, sunglasses, mask – all firmly in place. My ‘look’ above neck, gave Stevie Wonder a run for his money. The ‘look’ below neck was something akin to (according to Him) ‘a kid from fame’. Vibrant skirt, vest top, denim jacket and gold ballet pumps were my way to pull the eye away from the face. However, I’m not entirely sure that anyone other than Him could spot my inner dancer, inner star.
What’s inside of us all is very different to what people see. I’ve banged on about perception a great deal. How we present ourselves; how others see us; how much is real? Be honest, how many of you dress to present a certain view of yourself to the world? How many personas have you created?
We tend to present ourselves as a way of dealing with the outside world. We choose a range of ways to assault the senses (whether consciously or unconsciously) to gain an acceptance within the society we live within. But, going back to the original question: what about my inner star?
Now, confidence has eluded me for most of my life. People might not realise I live in a pretty constant haze of self-doubt, paranoia and worry. Frustrating as this is, it doesn’t stop me propelling myself into scary situations (with sweaty palms, sickness and chest pains) to gain the results I require. I have tricks – not the magical kind – not the deceitful kind – but tricks which I use to make the world feel like a less dangerous place.
So back to the Bakerloo line.
I’d been in London for a few days. It was the finale of a seven week drama; preceded by a global pandemic, a botched operation (later put right) and tears of living with a degenerative eye disease. A week which took me out of my comfort zone and scared the shite out of me. But first the drama…
Living with sight loss means my other senses are heightened. I rely upon them to enable me to do tasks some might take for granted. For example: when I cook I use my hearing to know when something is cooking. I might hear a sizzle. I might hear water boiling. Then there’s my taste. I taste and season to yell when things are cooked. I smell to know the depth of flavour. And I touch with my asbestos hands…all crucial when you can’t see properly. Moreover, I’m known for my supersonic senses. I can smell things a mile off. Often called upon to identify snd clarify situations (can you smell burning/shite/drugs?) I’m a sniffer dog. It makes me feel empowered that I can. That my crappy body can do something well.
Crappy body? Well yes. Covid has been awful. Two vaccinations and (in hindsight) I was weakened by them (I’d do it again though). My immune system, which is negligible, at the best of times, couldn’t do it. Flailing since the beginning of May, I seemed to be constantly ill. Cold, sore throat, sickness, lethargy, headaches, cold sores, and being mentally drained, I appeared to be running on empty. So was it any surprise I actually caught the bloody coronavirus! And not just mildly, but in a way which has left me with ‘long covid’ symptoms. Symptoms which ironically seem to hang around like a bad smell. And so what? You might say. Millions have and are in the same situation. It’s crap and it’s not what we ordered. The past sixteen months have led to this.
But this is the drama: not the covid itself and not the time it’s taking to recover: it’s all the chaos it causes.
I’d waited months. Struggling with a dodgy left eye. Covid had put the breaks on treatment. I was super ready for a life changing (not dramatic as anything that enables me to see better is ‘life changing’) surgery. Covid stopped it. But then, after that, I had to isolate before hospital. This meant that I’d been looked away for weeks. Lonely, bored, and either working (you can work but you can’t play) or being a ‘domestic goddess’ (like that’s my happy place), I feel I’ve spent some of my best time flatlining. Just existing. Trying to make every day count has been tough (especially after all the lockdowns…). I’m all about the journey and this little bird has had her wings clipped. Life has felt like a cage.
But that’s not all. As we know, life can give out in spades. Therefore, not being able to taste snd smell for a month has not helped the situation. Flowers and candles have never been less comforting. Well thought out dishes (I do like to cook) can’t be enjoyed. Life took on a two dimensional quality. It has lacked colour.
But back to the Bakerloo.
The patch, mask, glasses, vibrant skirt…I was struggling. I was tired. I was scared what would happen when the patch was removed. But beneath all that, I was dressed to shimmer. I wanted to be free. That’s the person I wanted people to see.
A while later I was off the underground. I was sans mask and patch. I now had glowing skin (lashings of Liz Earle) and a slick of Dior lippy on. The glasses made me look cool. There I was sipping an iced coffee outside a trendy London hotel. My smell had been returning for a while. My taste too. I could already see better and life was buzzing around me. Both images show two different women. However, inside she is the same.
This is a very watered down version of my recent dramas. I’ve not mentioned all the things I’ve learnt. I’ve not talked about all the people I’ve met. I’ve not even mentioned all the obstacles I’m still to overcome. All I’ve done is shared a portion of my story. But that’s because I get bored of talking about me. I like to know about others. I want to know about you!
So here goes…
I’m looking for people to tell me about themselves for a new project I’m working on. I want to share real life with real people. What makes a celebrity so interesting? Aren’t we all living our own stories? I love telling stories. ‘Shallow Lives’ is about there journeys. ‘The Golden Figure’ is shaping up in the same way (50000 words in). Both fictitious but both drawn from real life. And as much as I love weaving fictional worlds, I want to celebrate the real.
Soooooo…watch this space and get ready to share.