‘You’re going to write, are you?’ My husband asked one morning in response to my usual weekend announcement that I was off to write.
‘Not going to set things right?’
‘No, just w-r-i-t-e,’ I said, spelling out the word, and the joke flew overhead like so many bad Dad jokes, these days.
I prefer not to engage with people for long before I set out to write. It clutters my head. I prefer some space to mingle with my dreams. Like the last one I had before I woke, to the sound of the dog’s loud yawn in readiness for getting up.
On a tree in our back garden, I noticed a brown caterpillar that changed shape to camouflage itself along the tree bark and twigs. First thin and elongated, then lumpy and wide with ridges that curved in movement.
The bug began small but as I watched it blew out to ten times its size, to basketball size, twisting and turning. And then it morphed into the man’s pullover, a grey knitted thing that held the torn threads and holes of age.
The bug became a man who spoke to me. His words a blur in my memory now, but I told him I was not sure I could trust him.
‘You’re a shape shifter,’ I said. And he argued the point about trust
A shape shifter is one who changes their outward appearance from one form to another.
It’s on my mind, this thing about changing shape, like changing my mind. The thoughts I once held firmly morphing into some other conviction.
It bothers me. Am I so fickle, so irresolute, I cannot trust myself to be the reliable one I aim for?
Is it possible to watch something and not see it at all? To stand inches away from an event and still not observe the intricate movements of what falls before your eyes?
The essence of dissociation, the process of cutting off from your experience. When people dissociate, they observe closely but from afar and they observe with the microscopic vision that renders a small object like an ant’s head unrecognisable, that registers the movements of a sexual abuser who comes down on you, who puts hands where they should not put them from the distance of another galaxy. As if this is happening to some other body and not yours.
Everything in close and yet everything far away. So that the person who sees and does not see, need not feel the invasion of their body, while the active one engaged in the process is also caught in some manic abusive thing, they likewise cannot see. They are caught in their desires to rid themselves of the pressures of a moment.
Whether they too have been abused. Whether they cannot bear their own subjugation and humiliated state and must therefore impose their desires and hurt onto another person, one who is smaller, younger, or more vulnerable than them. Or whether they cannot control their lust.
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions about what drives one person to invade another’s space, but I imagine it has something to do with a confusion of boundaries, a confusion of feelings, a wish to be rid of pain they cannot contain.
Much like a baby lets out the most heart wrenching howls when left unfed. But a baby is tiny and can do no harm. A full-grown person can do untold damage, especially to the child they invade who cannot understand the assault and takes all blame upon themselves
My head is cluttered, but the sun is shining. I have no writing project on the boil, which leaves me free to wander, but the aimlessness of wandering is uncomfortable.
I prefer a few signposts ahead. A hint in the direction of some new ideas that might emerge if I’m following even the lightest of leads.
But no such leads are visible for me at present. I look to the prompts I have plastered on fluoro coloured post-it notes at the back of my computer, as to where I might go next.
Ideas I jotted down in the days beforehand, ideas that were once shining bright but now when I look, they flare up a flash of what once triggered them, but then fizzle. I am not in the state of mind when the idea first shone brightest.
I am a shape shifter, reliant on the mood in which I find myself from one moment to the next. A mind that can change like the weather. A bright sun filled day can cloud over in a heartbeat. Those wispy clouds can soon load with the deep grey of impending rain. The gentle breeze morph into a raging gale and all of it dependent on what happens outside of me. The words I hear from others and the way they invade my inner space, already crowded by life’s events. Some of which will not leave me.
The shape shifter, the one who lacks the beauty of the one who is gazed upon, who can then gaze out, like the insect in the tree, the one I met in my dream this morning who moved from a creature with no vertebra able to twist and bend into a person, a man no less, who could use his words to tempt me to trust.
But I am still wary.
One thought on “Shape shifter”
I never announce I’m off to write. I don’t hide it but I don’t make a thing about it. This morning I sat here in my chair and tapped away on my tablet and there was a poem and half a dozen comments on your blog. I’ve written an entire book before and told no one until it was done. I don’t believe telling people will jinx it because I don’t believe in jinxes but I do in distractions. I suppose I’m quite good at compartmentalisation. Writing is not an other people thing so I don’t feel any need to share, not even the finished product if I’m being brutally honest.
I mentioned in my last comment about my relationship with the past. I’ve not dissociated from it–I own my past–but it’s like a piece of writing, when it’s done it’s done and I’m done mostly with my past. I mean I do draw on it but not so much my past as the past I happen to have been passing through and picked up stuff along the way, facts and figures, life experiences. My knowledge of love means as much to me as my knowledge of Africa.
I think what I’ve been enjoying about my writing of late has been it’s arbitrariness. I pick up whatever shiny think catches my interest, make a little something of it and move on. No one to please bar myself.