I agonised about whether the title of this post should be ‘In defence of…’ ‘a’ or ‘the’ quiet life. I went for ‘my’ because it’s specific: everyone’s life is different, right? Regardless of its volume.
In my teenage bedroom the walls were, and I use this term in its loosest possible sense, ‘decorated’ with pieces of plain paper on which I would write song lyrics, fractions of poetry, snippets of my own awful, angsty writing. I was aspirational pretentious. One of my favourite lyrics at the time went:
Why live in the world when you can live in your head?
From Pulp’s Monday Morning. And now I have part of an Annie Dillard quote tattooed on my arm, which goes:
But a life spent reading – that is a good life.
Are you drawing a comparison?
Seems to me that I’ve always tended toward a quiet, non-experiential life. And herein lies the rub: is this something I should feel bad about? Should I hate myself, even just an small amount? Are all the books, the songs, the imaginings really an adequate substitute? Should I accept, even defend, the stillness of my life or should I turn up the volume, as it were?
The other day I was having a private tantrum wondering why we weren’t going away anywhere this summer when we clearly should be able to afford it. I was angry that I wasn’t exploring exciting locations, having my mindset slightly altered, if only for the duration of the ‘holiday’, creating beautiful memories or, at least, well-shot Instagrams – see how I try to belittle to reassure myself?
But then I realised. We could indeed afford to travel somewhere that’s not here, except we spent our money on a new carpet for the hall and a lovely garden bench. The quiet life. And I love my house, being at home, nesting. Like a tiny bird. And the bench, which I’m calling my Reading Bench, will give me real long term pleasure. So just shut up. But… It’s a big world, kiddo. And before I die, I’d like to see a bit more of it.
I realise that this post doesn’t really live up to the promise contained within its title. Not really a defence, is it? It would’ve been more honest to write:
I haven’t had a holiday this year. Not fair.