When a Door Opens

Happy New Year to all of you!

Another year has just ended, and as I look back at the past year, all that I can do is to be stunned. Did so much really happen in this past year?

Less than half an hour before 2008 was about to appear on the local calendar I thought that I had the year in perspective. I was wrong. Then a message arrived all the way from Australia – and the future – before midnight and it changed that perspective. A friend once had asked what would I do if I had what I wanted. I had then looked at him puzzled, it was a damn good question, it was during this past year. Today I would answer that it would frighten me. It does. That message from Australia contained elements of what I have been wishing for and I have postponed both going to London and New York, exactly because I have not found the time for dealing with this aspect of a writer’s life with the usual litany of excuses in attendance. Fear? Yes!

I recall another holiday season a few years ago shortly after I had left the world of the employed, joined the world of the unemployed and freelancers and was back in Switzerland after my adventures in the Middle East. Add to that the words of some wise professor that during my university years had spoken with me in a way that nobody ever spoke to me. I was then an undergraduate and my interactions with him had always to do with his scintillation counter which I used in a research project. What he told me in a context that has escaped me long ago was that one can not go back home. “You can not go back home” is what has remained engraved in my mind, and this is one phrase that returns to me every once in a while, and one that is very present right now.

First it all may have to do with my surrender to that feeling of being foreign. That piece of land where I was born is distant and I am now foreign to it. I felt this very strongly when I visited the place in October, I cried. But what does it mean that you can not go back home? What is home, and why can you not go back to it? Time in all its non-existence does provide part of the answer.

Then it is the memories of what felt as raw violence and injustice during that fated holiday season when from the middle of the Atlantic I got a message that pushed so many of my buttons and made me feel so totally misunderstood that I reacted with all the emotion that I could summon and not control, I could not understand any of it. Emotions are uncomfortable, very uncomfortable. I still get uncomfortable when I feel misunderstood, and yet there is nothing easier than for someone to misunderstand me. I do not often express myself clearly, my world is very ambiguous. In a year when my life’s choices took a few quantum leaps into being public, I have invited much potential for being misunderstood. I pray, I – the agnostic – pray that I am ready for the public. I think of that professor and that one can not go back home. Yet I am home. I suspect that back is the keyword in this sentence.

I wonder what they see in me. I wonder what that professor saw in me, and I wonder what that other with his messages from the middle of the Atlantic saw in me. More than thirty years later one still makes me feel understood, and the other makes me grateful just a few years later. In the latter case my reaction to what I felt to be unjust and false was to write, write more and to continue writing, and that was exactly what I wanted and needed to do. Without that very reaction, the message from Australia today would have not happened. But then, I also am not privy to what would have happened instead. Something or other always happens.

Last March I declared to a friend that if I were to die that day, I would die happy. To me that is as good as life gets, and I was in tears when I said that. What makes it good is that I am finally doing that which I had wanted to do all along, I am writing.

It has also been a year when I took a good look at the women in my life and my relationship to them. It could be that mothering is more of a role than a matter of biology. Biology and nationality are circumstances and come without any intent, it just happens to be the way things are, like tsunamis, the pest and the sunshine. I have adopted mothers everywhere and it is now that I realize how very lucky I have been in finding such wonderful women who have given me the warmth that I so much needed and sought.

One of my bootstraps when some mishap takes me by surprise is to look at it as a door closing in one place, and another opening elsewhere. Still, that is just a first step, it was early this summer upon my return from Copenhagen that I got what was for me for a moment, bad news. A much hoped for project did not go through and I listened to a colleague and friend explain to me the reasons for that decision. My first reaction was to not want to have any of it and blame it all on somebody’s bad decisions and fear. Then I calmed down and I looked at the situation again and found out that there was a pattern there. I figured that the only common denominator in all these fractional decisions was me. I listened again carefully to the feedback that I was getting and decided to make it right. I told myself that these people had indeed a right to make such a decision and to be afraid, and that my judgement of their reasoning and ignorance was inconsequential in this particular case. I asked what the consequences were if they were right, and I was wrong. Sweet, very sweet. There are occasions when to be wrong is so very sweet, and this year provided me with plenty of opportunities to taste that sweetness.

It seems that I stepped into this year with the revelation that what I have feared all along is to declare that I am happy. Yes, and that is not the end of that story either!

Thank you all for your presence in my life!