In September last year I posted a comment on a piece that appeared in the Guardian by Sarfraz Manzoor about his impending isolation from the rest of his family over his forthcoming marriage. I remember blogging it at the time and focussing on the questions it and he were raising about identity in the modern world with mixed emotions. That article ended with the wedding and I, probably like others, wondered what next.
So I was really pleased to read today’s article by Manzoor about his new wife’s decision to change her name to his. This is a subject which in itself is fraught with difficulty, the topic for many a gender studies scholar and one I have my own experiences of. No, it’s not the classic Guardian article of why ‘she’ has or hasn’t kept her maiden name (apologies but this kind of middle-class drivel misses the point these days), it is a joyful article of two people’s desire to make their own changes for the benefit of each other. It is about two people continuing to make discoveries about themselves and their own identities change through a process of choice. It is a story of compromise as an act of giving within a mutually respectful relationship. Most of all it is about how (unexpected) change can lead to happiness. These are all pretty important lessons in life and often overlooked in our busy, ‘success’ pursuing lives. We often fear change, focussing on the negative, feeling we lack choice, that it is done unto us and will make us unhappy. But often it brings relief, can help to empower and overall leaves us feeling happier. If a change is as good as a rest, maybe this is what it means.
I realise that at times this blog can appear slightly negative. It is not my intention but I do hope you enjoy this happy interlude.
In the modern world it seems that those who shout loudest often get whilst the quieter ones are left behind. It’s a dog eat dog world, so we are told (although as I remember reading on Ed Mayo’s blog, when was the last time you saw a dog actually do that?). Nice guys never win. Personally its a problem I’ve been grappling with for sometime now and when I first had my breakdown it was one of (the many!) elephants in the room. Am I a success or am I a doormat? Are my achievements worthy of being classed successful or are they just humdrum? Everything is relative I suppose and, much like the notion of identity being constructed by those around you as much as by yourself, measuring your own success is influenced, if not driven, by peers, friends and family. In doing so we can often be diverted from the realistic and acceptable.
And so I found this blog piece from @39teeth interesting about the erstwhile world road champion Cadel Evans. It was interesting in 2 ways: firstly, it appeared as a rare piece of praise amongst articles bemoaning the demise of professional cycling to dope culture; secondly, the piece highlights the dignified way in which Evans has honoured the world title and reclaimed its meaning in this otherwise murky profession. For those who are unaware of Cadel Evans, he is the perpetual loser, the guy who often comes second and the victim of disaster in the jaws of victory. Yet unlike other so-called champions he battles on. This season I too have enjoyed his efforts in a diverse host of races, not always winning but definitely always fighting. If we judge success on the number of wins then he is a questionable world champion in the eyes of some, yet his fighting spirit has made for entertaining racing, displayed real human emotion and I think makes for a real “champion”. By not winning the Tour de France, Evans is often written off as an also ran. I don’t know if he suffers from the expectations of others. What I will say is that in doing what he has done he has become a role model for me and is helping me to reshape my expectations of myself.
I could have used the oft cited poem of Phillip Larkin for the title of this blog – “They fuck you up, your mum and dad” – but some how felt this told only part of the story. What prompted me to write today’s post was a chance reading of a moving piece from this week’s Guardian by Sarfraz Manzor. In it, Manzoor talks about the chance meeting on a train of his future wife but the disapproval of his family that the union is between a “muslim”, British-Pakistani man and a “christian”, Scottish, blonde (an important point for Manzoor) woman and the hurt this creates for his wedding day. The reason why Larkin sprang to mind is because for Manzoor his identity is partly shaped by his heritage even if for some of those close to him their conceptualisation of this identity isn’t shared by Manzoor himself. It also struck a chord with me about something that I have had difficulty coming to terms with recently and found impossible to talk about. I too have created an identity based on what others have wanted of me rather than what I have really wnated myself. My breakdown is in large part a result of living too many shoulds around an other-pleasing identity. Therefore I could see where Manzoor was coming from. Its very difficult to challenge the identity others place on you but I’m glad that Sarfraz Manzoor has taken steps towards doing so. My challenge to myself is to start doing so some more.
(Thanks to my brother @leadout and my twitter friend @MrsBYork for highlighting the article to me!)
Have you ever asked yourself what its all about? Life I mean. We’re born, we live, we die. That’s pretty formulaic and inevitable but the bit in the middle is pretty long and has no set purpose to it. Yes, ok, this post is a bit esoteric but then that gives you a small insight into the machinations of my rather confused mind. Maybe it’s because I am by trade analytical, some might say prosaic others abstract, that I think about these things too much. But this morning I think I reached that point again where I’ve really lost any direction and ground to a halt. Maybe I question too much and should just get on with things, but its hard to get on with things when you don’t understand or believe in them enough to put the energy in. Is it natural to feel this way and if so why don’t more people shout out that they do instead of putting their heads down and carrying on like “normal”? Who wants to be normal when it is in fact it seems anything but.
Oh well, back to the grind – or maybe take a break. Hoping for “normal” service to be resumed soon.