‘Wants and needs Aimee … wants and needs. Love is finding someone who can meet both of these’.
This, the opinion of my uncle which he foisted on us, as he held court at the dinner table – his personality expanding to fit any space into which he entered. I guess he’s the closest to a father that I’ve had and one thing I’m sure of, is that he loved me dearly. But love was an emotion that remained stifled in his heart and throat, demonstrated only by the annual ritual of a fistful of cash thrown on the floor.
Memory lane is not one I wish to meander down very often. I’m increasingly compelled to spend as much time as I can in the present and as Eckhart Tolle suggests, taking short journeys into the past or future if it serves me well. But sometimes, life events take you in a direction not of your choosing, as they did last summer when I made the journey back home to the place of my birth.
In a montage befitting of the silver screen, I revisited my childhood haunts – the town centre, our favoured busking pitch, the park on the way to my old school, the dreaded tennis courts and finally all the way to the crematorium. At this point things took a tragicomic turn, as I hid behind a tree waiting to see who turned up and wondered if my father would emerge from the shadows. Whilst the likelihood of this was slim, it was not not beyond the realms of possibility as the last I heard my uncle had kept a proverbial window open, albeit one step removed.
Despite significant mental gymnastics inside my head, there was very little to be seen from my vantage point. Four men in a smokers’ huddle looking suspiciously like rent a crowd pall bearers and a lone woman on a bench, wasn’t quite the send off I’d imagined. Nor was walking down the aisle holding the hand of his estranged daughter to the sound of Orinoco Flow accompanied by his backing vocals. His love for Enya knew no bounds. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been my life and by the third song it kind of was. Even in death, he’d managed to blast his presence into every corner of the room.
My mother and sister were out of the country, experiencing an altogether different musical experience on a Strictly Come Dancing cruise. And my partner was adventuring abroad with his three children. So here I was on a solo fact finding mission, my face pressed hard against the glass of my past. I listened as the few supporting actors in his passion play, relayed the final alcohol soaked years and months. The most sobering discovery was that his walls had remained literally covered with pictures of us – the people he’d severed ties with one by one.
This image of my uncle living estranged and yet surrounded by photographs of his family had a profound effect on me. It’s become a visual reminder that no one owes you shit – not even your family. That the time, interest, friendship and love people offer us is a gift. If like he suggested, we seek partnership with those who are able to satisfy our wants and needs – what happens when our respective desires are not aligned? Is the value we place on a person as insubstantial as our changing whims?
I’m more inclined to believe that the ability to forge sustaining relationships stems from learning how to be at ease in our own skins. To find out what motivates, inspires and compels us to get out of the bed in the morning. To steer our own ship regardless of the storms without. And when we find our passions, to spend as much time as we can pursuing them. Then, instead of approaching others from a position of need, we can meet as equals and embrace our intersecting trajectories with curiosity.
That I’m writing this is almost laughable. It seems like forever my focus was firmly fixed on losing myself in others to make life more bearable. I completely overlooked the fact that my greatest ally was staring me in the face. I will never leave me. I know what I like and what I don’t. I can take myself out to dinner and buy my own fucking flowers. It’s taken decades for me to work out that without a creative outlet, I’m an empty shell. And relating to others from a position of need has only ever resulted in a feeling of lack.
Through writing and making, I’ve found a way to express myself and a place for my thoughts to rest when existential angst has worn them out. And from others, all I long for is to feel connection, to be accepted and understood and to feel free.