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Filling Up the Well

May 03, 2020


Yesterday I found a collaged journal I kept seventeen years ago. A journal stuffed with lovely life, hopes and the dreams of a woman trying to magic up a future full of curly haired children and gingham tablecloths.

I was sitting in my little office in my armchair as Finley toiled at his darn GCSE’s, my presence there necessary to stop his head wandering off on flights of fantasy, his curly head bent over an exam full of scientific equations he could barely make head nor tail of, when suddenly I was crying. Little blobs of water rolling quietly down my face. And Finn turned to me and took the journal out of my hands and started to flick through it – the perfect excuse to escape the kind of scientific misery he barely gives a jot about…

He read and he smiled and then he looked at me and spoke the words caught up in my throat.

“Where did you go, Mum? This is you! This is full of fun and muddled up inspiration. It’s how BrocanteHome should be. When did you get so caught up in making everything so neat and refusing to show the world who you are? Why isn’t Brocante stuffed full of the food you cook for us and the flowers you plant? The books you are reading and the interiors you used to love? What happened?”

What happened indeed? I wiped my silly face and told him I would have to get back to him with an answer on that because there was chemistry to worry about and he said, OK, but you know you can always go back don’t you? You are only stuck because you insist on believing you are stuck.

Blooming heck. Out the mouths of a bearded baby (he is refusing to shave until isolation is over, so I will probably be able to plait his chin soon!). Then he turned his mind back to science and I sat and read all the words I had written in the tiniest hand between images of beautiful rooms and Italian weddings, recipes for chocolate cakes and articles torn from magazines. And he was right, there I was in every word. In the sentences I pieced together from magazine print, the poems I wrote on the train and the riot of pattern and colour and joy and hope I had glued on to every page.

I was there in the quotes I had copied down from Sex and The City and Shakespeare. In the women I had clearly wanted to be at the time. In the images of flowers and underwear, the letters kept from friends and family, in the occasional line that spoke of my small sorrows at the time and in the sheer, cheeky joie de vivre of someone who clearly felt she had the world at her feet.

I was there, but I have not been here. Not for a while anyway.

Last Friday, a reader shouted at me. She shouted, in fact all over the internet, and ended her rant by telling me that she stopped reading BrocanteHome last year when my writing was full of my own misery. And it was all I could do not to shout back and say last year my partner tried to commit suicide and my son was diagnosed with Autism!! Life is hard, Lady! I can’t be jolly and inspirational all the time! Without my truth, BrocanteHome wouldn’t exist. Without my reality this wouldn’t be an accurate representation of my life, because I have never been the kind of blogger we all know exists, she who has constructed a reality for sponsorship and dare not ever drop the curtain.

But while her accusation of misery was misplaced and wholly fails to recognise that as a writer I have only ever wanted to say you are not alone, while she has no right at all to expect me to present my life as it ISN’T, and fails to understand that the longevity of BrocanteHome is solely down to the fact that I have never sold out, and always, whenever it was mine to tell, told the truth, yes, despite it all, there was some truth in her observation.

Brocantehome has to some degree become an entity apart from me. I have become a little frightened of it, manicuring it to such a degree that it has, to my mind, lost much of what it was. And I want it back again. I want me back again. For isn’t it true that when we keep coming back to the same conclusion, we have to start listening to the small voice whispering sort it out?

It stands to reason that I am not who I was seventeen years ago. That my dreams are more complex than they were, and that the slings and arrows of some of the things I have endured have left bruises on my soul. Of course they have. But I have always, always tried to still be here, even when my heart wasn’t in it because my truth was ugly and didn’t align with the contented vibe I would so much have preferred to share with you. I have been here anyway, and so have many of you.

Of course I have lost people.Women who privately berated me for not being of service to them individually. Women who refuse to read the small print and demand financial privilege or the kind of attention I simply don’t have time for. Women who come to believe that BrocanteHome belongs to them and seem angry when life derails me. My misery, their inconvenience. You would in fact be astonished by how often women shout at me for Brocantehome not being all that they want it to be. But not as often as I berate myself. And it is, no doubt, the reason why so many bloggers simply give up, and the reason why the tears flowed so easily when I found myself in the pages of that journal. When I saw my own authenticity glued to those pages and reflected on how far away I have drifted from it in an effort to please an imaginary jury, and keep my own soul stuffed into my pinny pocket.

I could not have avoided the misery the lady accused me of. And not sharing it would have meant constructing a diary that did not tell my truth. But here’s the thing: in the journal I created in the year before Finley was conceived, there IS sadness, dashed hopes and misery, but it is embroidered onto a patchwork of joy and that needs to happen again here. I need to stop fearing my computer, stop censoring my silly, and worrying about inviting judgement because the nature of the beast that is blogging means that judgement will come regardless!

My gorgeous boy said turn up every day. Turn up even when you have got nothing to say. Show them all the cakes! Show them the house! Forget who’s reading and do it for me: a journal of our lives. Let people love you again, for you, not just for what you can teach them. Fall in love with the site again by stripping away the neat and chucking the chaos at it all over again. If social media makes you feel claustrophobic, don’t do it! Don’t do any of it half-heartedly! Share the misery, but also share the happy things, the not so perfect things. The sentences that haven’t been edited to death, the random thoughts, and all the things you love! Be the housekeeper that you are on the page, not just in the house!

So I will. If isolation has taught me anything it is that life is short and we have to please ourselves. That there is so much that surplus in so many areas of our lives, and now is the moment to pinpoint what feeds us and stuff our lives so full of it, there is simply no room for that we clearly do not need.

What liberation there is in letting the tears flow. Thank-you then shouty lady. Thank you seventeen year old journal. Thank you Finn.x



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