These past six months I’ve been re-acquainting myself with a part of me I thought I’d lost forever. After the indulgences of the holiday season, I thought I’d write about what I’ve learned about the Wild Woman in me.
Those of you who have read my previous postings will know that the past few years have presented me with a few health problems.
Because of an illness called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (a rubbish name for such a complex physical illness) my life became empty, still and largely joyless. I was restricted in every way – from mobility, to diet, to the ability to read, write, talk and listen; even sleep deserted me eventually. Without the most basic of currencies – energy – the most basic of things become monumental. Later, a severe and terrifying clinical depression set in and threatened to snuff me out completely.
Over time, things have been improving. It has felt like heaven. I have felt like I’ve been granted a second chance. I have vowed never to take my health for granted again. I’ve sworn to cherish my wellbeing.
But then a funny thing started to happen. I started to have a lot of FUN.
I’ve always enjoyed doing slightly wild things, even if – despite my want of a pair of Christian Louboutins – this means just running barefoot at any given opportunity or – as a young girl – climbing any tree or structure available. I spent many happy hours with my sister ‘sailing’ our grandfather’s land-locked, moss-covered boat to far off lands and just as many exploring fields and hedgerows. But I guess as an adult, it became all about the working-hard and playing-hard. Emotionally too, I’d throw myself in, always wanting to listen, help, heal… and was attracted to the wild side of things, those dangerous, troublesome guys…
Burn the candle at both ends? Yes, brightly, fiercely.
In recent months, I’ve felt like I’ve been reintroduced to that part of me, and it’s been exciting. One of the ways I’ve been having my fun is in the late night, socialising, alcohol-swilling way. For 4 years I’ve been unable to tolerate alcohol so to find I can handle it again has been as I say: FUN. But it’s also been a little scary. It can become self-destructive when things get out of balance. The Wild Woman in me can be tremendous fun and full of adventure, but also kind of excessive and then, well, aside from feeling pretty unwell, there’s guilt, embarrassment, remorse… it all sets in and it just gets negative: Uh-oh, I’ve done too much again.
Then I found I started to crave the odd cigarette, a throw-back to my student days, you know, when you’re young and nothing can harm you. Yes, I know, bad. I wouldn’t smoke a lot, maybe two or three once every couple of weeks when a night with friends got lively, but then it became once a week, and then the cravings got stronger…
But there was other stuff too. We took a trip into the desert. I sat at the wheel of our 4×4 and asked my husband to teach me some tricks. First up, donuts in the sand. And WOW what fun! Then I wanted to tackle the dunes. Completely exhilarating and empowering! To have the physical strength to do these things was amazing, and it is surprisingly physical. My neck and back ached for days after but this was a good feeling, like when you’ve worked out some muscles really hard; I felt ALIVE!
I thought about the time I took up flying lessons, when I was a single twenty-something. I will never forget the moment the two-seater Cessna left the ground and we headed up into the blue, out across the countryside. Tears came to my eyes. I LOVED IT. Thinking on that and how I’d enjoyed my desert driving, I thought that maybe I’d find my old log book next time I went home to the UK and look into flying lessons out here, maybe I could even get my pilot’s license…
But that’s when it hit me.
I’m not sure I’d ever really wanted to get my pilot’s license. I had wanted to take flying lessons because I enjoyed the sensation, the freedom, the experience, for that hour every couple of weeks. That was enough.
I enjoyed the driving the same way: the sheer playful craziness of locking the steering on my 4×4 and getting a cloud of dust whirling into the sky, my husband and son in hysterics with me.
My drunken antics of late have been the same. I’ve been enjoying the sensation of it all, the freedom of it.
But that’s not all there is of me. I was starting to feel a little out of control, recognising old patterns, but I see that things are different in me now. Being ill has actually saved me in many ways. I’ve tasted a quieter, more gentle life – forced upon me and not welcome, but nonetheless, necessary and in the end, nothing short of an epiphany. One where ‘I want a quiet night in front of the TV’ is not boring or missing out but is preferable, and where ‘No, I don’t really want to do that’ is not being a slacker.
I’ve been testing some boundaries these past few months and through that I find that I am a different kind of Wild Woman now. A Wild Woman who’s not just headed in one direction, the first in the queue: This way to Excess and Extreme! But a Wild Woman with woollen bed socks, herbal tea in the cupboard and a sewing box on the side table.
Can I be both? Yes I can. I’ll still enjoy sometimes taking things a little overboard, that’s a part of being Nikki and I don’t want to deny it entirely, I don’t think that would be healthy either: it’s part of my imperfection. I’ll just be having plenty of quiet nights in between! I do want to kick my 12-a-month ‘habit’, because that does make me feel, well, icky. But I will be doing more donuts in the desert and I hope to camp out in a Bedouin tent under the stars before the year is out.
But how about you? How do you express your Wild Woman whilst keeping one eye on the slow lane? And how has your Wild Woman changed over the years? Come on, I know you’re out there!
Nikki Newman, 36, from England, currently lives in Qatar, where she moved this year due to her husband’s work. A former teacher and proud mother of 7-year-old Oliver, she’s currently focusing on settling her family into their new lives, while also pursuing her passion for painting. To see Nikki’s work please go to: www.nikkinewmanart.com