Your Life As A Play

18 Aug

You think that if you get all the window dressing right then everything will be fine.

The floral-patterned dress, the beat up cowboy boots, the vintage leather jacket.

The carefully tousled hair, the oversized sunglasses, exactly the right shade of peachy-pink lipstick.

The golden tan, the throaty laugh, the full smile.

The way the sun hits you from behind, so that you’re sweetly backlit in the late summer afternoon haze.

The books on your shelf. The distressed furniture. The tacky knick knacks you wouldn’t have been caught dead with five years ago.

The antique china tea set your grandmother gave you.

The mint green bike you bought second hand.

The midcentury modern buffet you found on the street on garbage day.

The smart, funny, handsome husband.

The smart, funny, precocious child.

The off-beat, artsy career.

The morning yoga classes you teach, the playlists you create timed perfectly with the flow of poses, the warm, sympathetic tone to your voice.

The afternoons you spend in coffee shops drafting up your novel, your screenplay, your heartwrenching poem.

Everyone who looks at you is envious. You can feel it when they size you up. You can tell how much they covet your life, all of it, every tiny detail.

You’re so good with details.

You’re so good at so many things.

You lucky, lucky girl.

It’s like creating a set for a play, isn’t it? A play about a life you’d like to live. You think that if everything is placed just so then it must follow that you will be happy. If the print on the table cloth is exactly right, if the soft cotton quilt that your grandmother gave you is just tattered and faded enough, then you will break the spell. You will finally feel alive.

It doesn’t work that way. Your things are just things. Your hair, makeup and clothing are part of an elaborate, time-consuming disguise. Your husband and child are not as perfect as they seem, because no one is perfect, but the tantrums, the arguments, the dull drag of day-to-day life never make it on to your Instagram account. The print on the table cloth is just slightly wrong.

The window dressing is just window dressing. Your heart is the reality, and it cracks in a way that can never be repaired. You will always be you, no matter what your life looks like, no matter how many best-sellers you write, no matter how envious anyone else might be.

You will always be you, living in this particular skin, on this particular planet, at this particular time in history.

You will always be you.

Talk about a life sentence.

Talk about a life sentence.

Talk about a life sentence.

Alice Summers in Paris

35 Responses to “Your Life As A Play”

  1. annie August 18, 2013 at 3:20 am #

    beautiful, and distressing, and true, and real – like everything your write.

    the trappings are always just the trappings. it’s only the love inside that matters.


  2. Jennifer Sheppard August 18, 2013 at 3:45 am #

    Once again, you are able to articulate what I can only begin to grasp. Thank you for all your beautiful posts. You are not alone — so many of us can relate.

    • bellejarblog August 19, 2013 at 1:43 am #

      Thank you. And thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone ❤

  3. AmazingSusan August 18, 2013 at 4:19 am #

    And there you are center stage. You’ve written the part and the play. You’ve got an audience to please. Better get on with it….

  4. A Free Spirit August 18, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    Talk about a life sentence…

    This made me have a sudden jolt in cognizance of exactly where I was in the universe, in time, in history…. It made me feel. It made me want more than my possessions.

    Talk about a life sentence…

    • bellejarblog August 19, 2013 at 1:47 am #

      ❤ I'm glad to have been able to make someone feel

  5. Writer / Mummy August 18, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    Beautiful and wise. I always think about the song ‘weather with you’. No matter how sunny it is when you run away to the otherside of the world, you take your own weather with you. There’s a phrase in Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes that I’ve heard a lot recently applied to Facebook, Instagram etc. ‘You mustn’t compare your inside to everone else’s outside.’ So true. It’s all window dressing.

    • bellejarblog August 19, 2013 at 1:55 am #

      Yes. It’s definitely all window dressing, and social media definitely makes it hard to distinguish between the outside and the inside.

      Reminds me, too, of this poem:

      The City
      C.P. Cavafy

      You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
      find another city better than this one.
      Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
      and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
      How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
      Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
      I see the black ruins of my life, here,
      where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

      You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
      This city will always pursue you. You will walk
      the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
      will turn gray in these same houses.
      You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
      there is no ship for you, there is no road.
      As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
      you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.

      • Writer / Mummy August 19, 2013 at 6:36 am #

        Powerful stuff! Thankfully I went away, took my weather with me, and found my weather better suited my home town. I ran and ran and ran home where I’m as happy (and as unconcerned about external trappings) as my depression will allow. Most of the time, anyway. 🙂

      • bookmole August 20, 2013 at 11:36 am #

        Thanks for introducing me to a poet I had not heard of before.

  6. Teesha August 18, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Wow. Mind-blowing. You’ve knit the entire piece with so much intelligence. Its delicate yet a powerful piece. About, the time consuming disguise, things are really just things.

  7. Merry August 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    So poignant and true. And in this age of facebook, the window dressing task has been ramped up to a level of insane proportions only increasing our ever-present insecurities. Exit stage left…

    Mummy: the song that dances through my mind is the wincing “Is That All There Is” sung so hauntingly by Peggy Lee.

  8. Stephanie August 18, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    “You will always be you, living in this particular skin, on this particular planet, at this particular time in history.” This doesn’t sound like a life sentence to me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • bellejarblog August 19, 2013 at 1:58 am #

      Then that’s a good thing! This post definitely isn’t going to speak to everyone.

  9. CombatBabe August 18, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    I truly wish I had such a way with words as you do, and I can really relate to this piece. Thank you for sharing it.

    • bellejarblog August 19, 2013 at 2:01 am #

      Thank you so much! That’s very kind of you to say 🙂

  10. MELewis August 18, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    Ah, the relentless pursuit of perfection….only seems to lead to happiness in car commercials. I like your ‘life sentence’ reference. May it truly be a life sentence…and a sentence of life!

    • bellejarblog August 19, 2013 at 2:05 am #

      Hah! That’s a good point about car commercials. If only family car trips were THAT fun.

      And thank you!

  11. mom August 18, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    This is incredible writing, I wish I’d come across your post years ago when I still thought the window dressing mattered. THANK YOU!!!

    • bellejarblog August 19, 2013 at 2:07 am #

      Thank you! It’s so lovely of you to say that!

  12. andreabehindglass August 18, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    You have captured this beautifully in what you have written!

  13. besav August 18, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    Reblogged this on Brianne Savage and commented:
    I’ve been neglecting this blog lately because I’ve been bogged down with work, anxious, uninspired, the whole lot. I recently decided that I might be able to jump start my creativity by redecorating my home office – then I read this and it put things into perspective for me.

  14. Carla Paola August 19, 2013 at 12:37 am #

    Talk about a life sentence. Perfect!

  15. brennalayne August 19, 2013 at 3:07 am #

    The trappings are so pretty, and such a mild gloss over the terrible beauty of who we really are. Maybe your trappings are an artful construction, but your voice sings out raw and real and achingly true. It’s tempting to think we can make it all fine, but we’re writers. It will never be fine. It will be a glorious, soul-twisting mess, because we think and feel so deeply. I know you’re not perfect, but I admire you even more for that, and for speaking the difficult truth.

  16. theclocktowersunset August 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    I wish people thought like this when they came to my house. Instead they have to look at me through the window, I wish they could be on the inside looking out for once.

  17. Dara August 20, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    I really liked this. Status and success is so linked to perception but it’s all meaningless when put beside the struggle for self-worth. The internet and popular media want to make narcissists of us all (said the blogger), encouraging our lists and stock takes and status updates.
    It’s very subjective but the challenge is surely to try and create a full heart at the centre of your life – something of real, pulsating substance; something vital.

  18. Forlorn Hope August 22, 2013 at 4:35 am #

    What a lovely post. I have been doing these “life arrangements” for so long nobody knows the real me anymore. I discovered blogging recently and it has opened my eyes so much both through me writing it out and reading posts like yours. Thank you.

  19. lu August 24, 2013 at 1:02 am #

    But it’s all for nothing unless it looks casual.. right? Like.. the performance reaching a level of such accuracy as to look completely accidental. “No I promise.. this really is exactly who i am.”

    “Steerpike was not an artist. He was the exact imitation of one” – getting it exact IS tedious I suppose.

  20. soleniadiamante August 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    Reblogged this on soleniadiamante's Blog and commented:
    Love this, amazingly true


  1. World Mental Health Day: 2013 365 Challenge #283 | writermummy - October 10, 2013

    […] courageous bloggers who offer up their story and share the hardest moments (Mummy Loves to Write, The Belle Jar to name just two). It is important to write about it, for me: to de-stigmatise mental health […]

Leave a Reply to AmazingSusan Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: