Today is my parents wedding anniversary. They would have been married 43 years today. I never have to search for the number because I am as many years old as they have been married. It was because of me they had to promise each other to stay together forever. They were both children from big families, living in a small traditional village in the east of the Netherlands. When you got pregnant, you got married. You promised each other to stay together through good times and bad times. And they did. For more than 42 years. "Until death do us part." They raised three daughters, gave them the best childhood possible. I am unendlessly grateful for that.
Sometimes I wonder what their lives would have been like if they wouldn’t have had me, if they wouldn’t have been “forced” to get married. Would they have still married each other at some point? Would they have made completely different choices? I know there is no use in thinking like that. Things happen and you go from there and at any moment you are free to do whatever you want. You can make your own decisions. And I am fortunate to have been raised in a way that made it easier for me to make my own choices than it has been for them.
8 september 2012 I wrote a post on one of my blogs. I was in my first 3-piece walking suit, walking from one side of Belgium to the other side, together with a big group of artists. That day I quoted a line I had read:
“The greatest sin a man can commit is to not be happy.”
I wrote “I agree, but it's hard. And maybe it should be. I've been a sinner myself. Trying to change (I'm in the right direction!). And in the meantime being comforted by the knowledge that I'm in good company. Here's Borges:
I have committed the worst of sins
One can commit. I have not been
Happy. Let the glaciers of oblivion
Take and engulf me, mercilessly.
My parents bore me for the risky
And the beautiful game of life,
For earth, water, air and fire.
I failed them, I was not happy.
Their youthful hope for me unfulfilled.
I applied my mind to the symmetric
Arguments of art, its web of trivia.
They willed me bravery. I was not brave.
It never leaves me. Always at my side,
That shadow of a melancholy man.”
Almost two weeks after I wrote this, after I quoted Borges, I turned 40. Already a while before, I had decided some things had to change in my life. I had decided that when I turned 40, it was time to be really happy. As far as possible. Not a neverending state of bliss but living in the feeling I was doing the right things, that I was enjoying life, that I made sense to myself and other people.
I decided I wouldn’t stop walking. Walking made me happy. By being slow I added meaning to the world, it made me meet people, it created opportunities for new connections, opportunities to become aware of the things happening around me and to create awareness. To make a difference in a small way. To be in relation with the world. To fall in love with the world and the people in it.
It worked. It is a slow process but I am in no hurry. I like slowness. And 2,5 years after I decided to be happy I can actually say I am. I am happy, I am at the right place at the right time. Today it is Barcelona but in two weeks it will be somewhere else. And who knows where it will be a year from now.
I will be in the same body though. My soft armour. Walking on my two feet.
Today is a happysad day. Sad because I can’t tell my father how happy I am now, here. Happy because I spent 43 years with him. And happy because I can tell my mom.