Who put the fun in dysfunction?

After posting yesterday I was caught pondering my life and wondering if it is too earnest. A friend has fallen for the charms of a married man, someone I love has got into trouble with alcohol and a neighbour has landed up in hospital after a motorway race that was ‘great fun’. Meanwhile I sit at home happily being alone and out of trouble. But am I having fun?

I admit that I lost my confidence for a moment yesterday and then I remembered how long it had taken me to escape from the fun trap. The fifty minute hours with Dr Henck, the mistakes, the pain, the Boy, the fun! Is there something in me that clicks into self-saboteur mode once my life becomes too serene?

One of the books that has helped me is A Life of One’s Own by Joanna Field, an enquiry based on the author’s intimate diary into conditions for obtaining happiness and a personal standard of values. Written in 1934 by a psychoanalyst called Marion Milner, the book is an adventure in thought and living. I carried that book around carefully for ages, recognising its vibration long before I opened its pages. I need to remember its importance in my development and its wisdom, its dedication to peeling away layers of habit-bound superficial looking, for that is often what the word fun describes. Having fun is something often raucous, self-centred and giddy. Being happy is becoming quiet, and connected with the needs of the self, rather than the wants and desires of the ego.

Marion Milner died in 1998 aged 98. She was remembered in her obituary as someone who believed in learning to value the femininity of her mind. Until the end she maintained an astonishing capacity to make new friends. A number of young people visited her regularly, because even when very old she remained vital. At 97 she complained that she could only work a little each day.

The main thesis of her book was that she taught herself to use wider, unfocused perception in which she identified fleeting moments of delight-like the sight of a chicken crunching a blade of grass at a cafe in the Black Forest or the sight of red shoes, loitering in a crowd at a fair or the pleasure of a new idea when it is first grasped.

So much for fun, which often comes dressed in the subtlety of a Christmas cracker. Give me the quieter pleasures often overlooked. The brief encounter with a fox in the snow. The conversation with a robin on the head of a garden statue. The sudden smile of a stranger ( even if it’s created by my basset hat).

So no more the desire to be jolted into feeling. Extreme often has a thread leading to dysfunction. I want to grow and growth is a journey that takes me to the centre of my mind and involves listening to the small voice clamouring beneath my will. I am happy to learn to live with uncertainty and trust the unconscious, the emptiness, the blankness, to get to what seems to be not there.

But like Marion Milner I intend to grow old keeping an eye on the palpable too. This means keeping an interest in colour and clothes, making sure my wardrobe is stuffed with scarves and jackets, cardigans and shawls in vivid oranges, pinks and yellows. And keeping my mind open to new ideas. I want a chance to play with things just for the joy of doing and of being, not for any greater advancement. This after all is why I blog, though it’s always good to get a comment or two. That’s fun!

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