A boyfriend of mine once said that I was the most normal person he knew. The comment, halfway between bemusement and belittlement, was a bitter blow. I yearned to be a bit wild and edgy, but was afraid. It was unknown territory. Plus, most of the wild and edgy people I had known were usually financially strapped, and being poor was not an option for me. I grew up in a household where there were money problems, it wasn’t pretty, and I wasn’t going there again if I could help it. I was torn between being allergic to penury, and wanting to let my inner lunatic out – which, it being mine, was never in danger of being massively outrageous, even when all the chains were off. That boyfriend of mine, damn his rotten hide, made it clear that I had sold out to uber-normality big time.
My older sister got the march on me with the wild and edgy thing. The lid was firmly closed on any of my occasional childhood attempts to give it a bit of a whirl. So, I never got enough practise at it, and not being a natural, I needed to have been practising hard from a young age to make up for what wasn’t a god-given talent, if this thing was going to work. I was more along the lines of a placid child – until I got a younger sister, and although that let a few inner monsters out, they aren’t the same as the inner lunatic. Now, if I focus on letting my inner lunatic out, I can think of some really weird and wild shit to get up to, but in reality they’re probably a bit pathetic, and would get laughed at by the seriously accomplished inner lunatic releasers. Lack of practise undermines all our worthy endeavours.
Why the word ‘lunatic’? To some, that word might seem inappropriate. However, that word has long been dropped from the technical use it once had to denote mental illness, and is now an informal way to describe ‘mental’ behaviour. Hence, I feel it’s acceptable to appropriate it for my own specific use. It conjures up visions of wild abandon and no boundaries – things of which I have always had plenty of the opposite. There is a good side to containing some of our abandon and having boundaries. It stops us from killing each other willy-nilly, and enables us to live in communities. But too much containment squashes our personal world into a tiny bubble.
For me, I need a way to be able to imagine the absolutely wildest things I could possibly do with no self-imposed boundaries – and the lunatic does that very nicely indeed. What else could be so gloriously, uncaringly unfettered? It’s better to let it out and let it soar, and then rein it in to what’s actually achievable, than to be afraid of letting it stick its nose out into the world at all. Once it’s soared, though, and shown me its wild side, do I settle for my same old boundaries, or do I find that my boundaries of what’s achievable have been pushed a little bit further out?
When we’re children, we have a fairly close relationship with our inner lunatic. Then maybe we go to a Catholic school and get taught by nuns, who terrorise the bejeezus out of us. If our parents haven’t already done it, the nuns shut the lid on our inner lunatic, and throw away the key. They had fear and intimidation all sewn up. The priests were no slouches, either. However, out of fairness, I feel compelled to say that there were some kind nuns and priests, as well.
Then we become teenagers and young adults, whereby rebelling is pretty much a rite of passage. We begin reacquainting ourselves with our inner lunatic, helped along by the physiological changes going on. And we start taking risks again. Risky physical gambles, risky friendships, risky sexual adventures, risky everything. If uninterrupted, I reckon we do about a decade of risky shit, before life taps us on the shoulder and whispers in our ear that we have to make a choice. And we really do have to make a choice. We have to choose whether we will engage with ‘the system’ and achieve a degree of material comfort, which makes life easier in many ways. Or, we choose not to engage with the system, and often find that material hardship is our ‘reward’ for that. If we find a way of engaging with the system by doing something personally fulfilling, we’ve at least won something.
If we choose to engage with the system, as I did, so begins the chunk of our lives that is taken up with honing job skills, creating a family (not me, but most people), keeping food on the table and a roof over our heads. We daren’t let our inner lunatic out during this phase, because it might show us our lives as they brutally, truly are. And if that scares us, we might not be able to pull it back in. Some of us become really good at keeping it contained. So much so, that our boyfriend calls us “the most normal person I know”. In hindsight – a wonderful, rosy place of dreams – I should have let my inner lunatic out and at him. I think I would have enjoyed his screams.
And just when we think we’re getting clear, and our inner lunatic is champing at the bit, our parents get elderly and need looking after – but that’s a whole story on its own.
I don’t think I can hold the lunatic back much more, though. It’s ready to re-launch, and show me that weird and wild shit I know it’s capable of – some of which I might even do. It could possibly frighten the hell out of me, however, I shall be brave and let it soar anyway. After all, it’s not an actual entity, so I do have control over it. I think.