I love summer but I’m happy that it’s over and I won’t be seeing couples, families and friends, and women in beautiful summer dresses in the park when I go for my weekend run. I’ve always thought that summer accentuated female beauty. Not so much individual beauty as this shared general beauty of the female form when dressed in summer clothes. Men get completely outshined. I feel outshined as well. Summer doesn’t suit me – I sweat, my cellulite shows and it’s hard to find shirts that would cover my scars. Moreover, summer dresses and bright colours combined with my bleach blonde hair makes me look … average.
I saw this blonde woman in the park wearing a white summer outfit. She was with a son, maybe 5 or 6 years old. He was on a little bike, could barely ride it but that fact that she was there gave him full confidence and trust in his limited skills and, I guess, in life. She looked perfect in her appearance and in her mother role – a woman who seemed to have it all. That white outfit underlined her perfection – either she could afford to remove potential stains, i.e. she was rich, or didn’t get dirty in the first place, i.e. she was pure. Nothing about her suggested that she, unlike most of us, was lacking something in her life, she was an embodiment of harmony. She wasn’t even carrying a bag and was therefore in perfect balance. Her clothes were fashionable – neither ahead nor behind others, and the attention she paid to the little boy was so uni-focused that there was no doubt she was fulfilled by motherhood.
And yet, this woman was so strange to me that I almost wanted to cry. She represented everything I should want but will not have because none of it feels right for me. If I became her, I’d be untrue.
I read somewhere that one’s character is formed on Sunday afternoons. As far as I’m concerned, being lonely on a warm summer Sunday afternoon in a park full of people is the hardest. Perhaps the reason why Victoria Park has become my favourite place in London is because I’ve gone on countless formative runs there. I can’t imagine who I would be without the park and the demons I have to face there:
Sunday food market people remind me of the ever-present desire to consume. How nice it would be if there was a place in the city, where one could take a break from financial transactions. Strangely, the market is supposed to be a farmers market but I have yet to see a farmer there or a raw vegetable. All the food is trendy, ready-to-consume and probably good too. But I wouldn’t know.
People wearing “French” style clothes truly gentrify the park. It almost seems that God created Sunday so that young urban middle-class people could wear shirts with black and white stripes and live out their wildest lifestyle aspirations. The reason why I understand this is that I myself have a few outfits I have only worn on Sundays and have, for a long time, wanted to own a perfume called “Lazy Sunday morning.” Secretly, I hope the beautiful smell of the sun and fresh linen might protect me from the demons.
“Festival girls” dressed in festival fashion remind me of Instagram. Whether alone or in a group, they’re ready to pose as fun-loving, best-time-having, happy people celebrating nothing but themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that except they all look the same as if there was but one way to display how much fun you’re having.
Everyone living well, including me, running around in order to be fit. “Living well is the best revenge,” said George Herbert, an English poet. I wonder, how many of us, well-living people, are actually just trying to get some kind of a revenge?
And is it just me who’s feeling frustrated about not having it all? Not even on the seventh day when God himself was content and rested? Are others equally frustrated but better at faking it? Has it always been this way or are we living in some kind of Instagram totalitarianism that dictates that we all be happy or at least fake it til we make it?
Aren’t these thoughts just an expression of my loneliness and frustration? How unfair was I to the woman in white and all the others? How do I know what their normal Sunday afternoons are like? Wouldn’t I be festive if I was having fun with friends? And why did I not pay any attention to all those people sitting on the grass by themselves, reading books in solitude, not disturbed by any demons. How bitter and sad are my thoughts? And yet, they’re my best shot at fighting the demons.
As I run among the trees, I let the demons come and I let them hurt me, humiliate me, take away my pride, and all the illusions I have of myself or of who I might be. I breath in the outside air and breath out the pain, until I feel so small and so human that there’s barely anything left of me. Insignificant, weak and imperfect, I can finally face the truth about being human.
I thank the blonde woman, the food market people, the nice middle classes and even the festival girls, for being there as mirrors of myself. I thank trees for not being mirrors, not reflecting any demons, but for giving me their presence on which my eyes and my thoughts can rest for a moment and think of life, the changing of the seasons, the importance of roots as well as the crown. And while they’re most likely completely indifferent to my gratitude and my thoughts, we’re still there together sharing the same air.
As I inhaled the beautiful smell of summer trees and exhaled the petty, confused thoughts, I prayed for my imperfections to stay and remind me how much I needed the outside world – people, trees activity, all of it. I’m connected to them through the umbilical cord, that is life.
I am what I am. I must reject any attempt at perfection, even in terms of the formation of my character. I must reject the Instaideology that tells me I can have it all. I can’t have it all because not all is true to me. What is true to me are my scars, my dark thoughts, and maybe even my cellulite.