There is a postcard, fridge magnet, T- shirt, coffee cup and Facebook / Twitter update that is so over used and such a cliché that every time I read it or see it, it makes me exhale like a serial killer who's just remembered he has left his last victim in the boot of his car.
It goes a lot like this:
'Insanity doesn't run in my family, it practically gallops!'
I hate the exclamation mark at the end of that statement. In fact, I have a terrible aversion to exclamation marks when they are used in an effort to show humour! Or Fun! Or excitement! But when they are used to underline and underscore insanity?
Well that just makes me insane.
Insanity does run in my family. We've tried every mental illness we could think of. We've tried them on like a pair of shiny new shoes and walked around in them until the soles wore down and the heels fell off. Depression & delusion, paranoia and panic disorders, Anorexia and Bulimia, anxiety and OCD have all been worn over the socks of addiction and obsession. I wouldn't be exaggerating if at any given time and at any given dinner table, you get us all together and you'll have a giant smorgasbord of mental illness, and if you don't know what a smorgasbord of mental illness is?
Well it's just like a cheese board with an extra portion of crackers.
As a family we accept our mental incapacities, and we wear them like a badge or trade them like playing cards. I'll raise you a dose of my anxiety for a day of your anorexia or I'll give you two weeks of my depression for a month of your addiction.
Crazy is what crazy does and when you get a room full of self diagnosed lunatics and certifiable sociopaths together, you just know it's going to be one hell of a party. Even without the cheese board.
I'm proud of my inherited crankiness, I'm not ashamed of my infected craziness but I am in no way trying to undermine mental illness. It's in the bloodline of my family and has been passed down from generation to generation. Some people inherit country estates and royal titles, I inherited a mind full of thoughts and questionable behaviour. I was brought up not to conform. I never wanted to be 'normal' or accept the mundane but I can't say it's always served me well. It's the fear of being restricted or told what to do that has made me walk out of jobs & a career and walk away from relationships and a life of domesticity. I don't want to live a mundane life and I have never been fearful of change. It's always been the standing still that scares me, but as I've got older, and especially lately, I've began to realise that sometimes it might be wise to reign in my eccentricities and dampen the flame that always wants to burn the brightest.
I'm not twenty anymore and what is easily discarded with youth is not as easy to pick back up again when you've lost your wide-eyed innocence. The cloak of youth and ambition is a fine one but I'm starting to find out it's not weather proof any longer, and it's definitely dry clean only. I think there may even be a few split seems where the moth of reality has eaten its way through.
Youth doesn't age well if you don't pay attention to it and you don't know what to wear it with.
It's obvious that as we age we become more aware of our own mortality and those around us, so it scares me to watch my parents grow old and I see it in the faces of my friends too. I think for a lot of people age brings fear. It makes those who were once the ones we looked to for excitement and encouragement quietly roll over and 'settle' but I still believe I can do and achieve all the things I want, I'm just aware that they need to be done a lot quicker. I never thought the stopwatch of youth would be replaced with the ticking clock of middle age.
And what do we get given to measure our old age with?
An egg timer?
I've always been drawn to those people who have misbehaved or were deemed not to be 'normal', from my school days to building a career, from school discos to nightclubs, and all through my teens, twenties, thirties and now my early forties. It's the carefree and the 'crazy' ones that inspire me and excite me, but what happens when the ones who were always burning the candle at both ends and living La Vida Loca suddenly want to switch on the nightlight and grow organic vegetables? What happens when the ones who shared and reveled in your outlandish behaviour suddenly get all grown up and want to be in bed by 11? Do you change or temper your behaviour to suit them or do you leave them to their quiet life of domesticity and carry on looking for things that excite you and make you feel alive and inspired? I think this is the decision that everyone has to make, when do we give up our eccentricities and quirks and realize we've just got to 'knuckle down' and get on with it?
Do we 'settle' and grow old gracefully or do we refuse to settle and just grow old, all alone and 'crazy'?
I feel at the moment that I'm torn between the two. Do I follow what my whole being tells me to do and always search for the unexpected and exciting or do I do what everyone else is doing and realise that I should search for a gentle calmness and settle down?
I think for the answer I'll have to look to both my parents, follow their lead and example and remember what they've always taught me:
"Crazy is what crazy does" and learn to accept that I'm probably just going to grow old and all alone, with only my multiple personalities for company.