Posted by: Andrew | October 23, 2011

At the edges of independence

I have stood at the edges of independence before.  I can remember the vertigo; the fear of dropping off and falling to god knows where.

I knew it was a set of stupid decisions that had driven me out there.  Stupid, vain, prideful and ultimately anti-social decisions; ones which rejected the changes occurring in the lives around me, the kinds of developments from which I felt excluded.  My response was hurried, insular, propelled by its own awful momentum to a place where I was incapacitated, in winter, in a small flat which did not feel like home. Alone.

At the edges of independence there is nobody to blame but yourself.  And not blame in any nasty, finger-pointing way – that gets you nowhere. Just share the blame in an “oops – we fucked that one up didn’t we?” way; a dynamic which even in a bad situation can result in a wry smile, a scratch of the head, some consolation which in itself is the beginning of a way out.  At the edges of independence there is none of this of course – just yourself and the gasping vertigo of it all.

None of which stopped me from setting out towards it again this autumn, with another hurried decision to move house.  Exquisite self harm, I thought, as the pressure, panic and fear began to take its grip again. Fear I would mess up, that I would contrive to make my life worse, (for which only I would be to blame), fear that I would end up somewhere completely unsuitable, isolated and…

I asked for help.

Swallowed pride, faced fears of rejection and asked for help.  Which came instinctively and willingly. Spare rooms, storage space, cars.  Whatever it took from friends who want to be a part of this. Who wanted to make sure I had the time I needed, that there was no need to be alone with it.  I was surprised and moved that this generosity came so freely, a response that says much more about me than it does about my friends. A response I need to get under the skin of.

Exquisite self harm.  I begin to realise this description was not wholly true, and was a typically self absorbed way of looking at my behaviour.  Because flights to the edges of independence harm more than just yourself; they harm those who have a desire to be a part of your life, whose instincts to give and support – to provide a bit of that security you keep telling yourself you crave – you are willfully rejecting.  It sounds like madness. I expect that’s because it is.

Independence is a powerful idea: I have stood at the edges of it and I recognise its draw remains strong. It’s not wholly positive though, not even wholly human I suspect.  More than anything it’s tiring. And I can see now just how tired I am.


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