I woke one morning having dreamt that title (might even be too fond of it). It was after binge-watching Mad Men. So appropriate, since I felt I was on a bender until it was done.
I’d resisted watching it for years – because I’d lived it – but eventually, curiosity won out. What I felt was a gradual descent into an old hell, re-awakening the women’s libber in me, bringing back the pain of those times – and also for a brief while, my great dislike of men. I remember talking about the series to a friend, who agreed that it is an incredibly accurate portrayal of those times, and of corporate America.
After WWII, society had, en masse, chosen to give all jobs to the men returning from the war, and re-locate all women to the home and motherhood. Growing up as a female child, I saw so many women end up either drunk most of the time or in psych wards. When I entered the corporate work force at the age of 17, I watched – spell-bound – as boys my age were speed-walked through the ranks in a few months, while women who had been there for years stayed put. I decided that I would be one of the women who would change that. And I did, only to discover the truth in that old cliché “Be careful what you wish for”.
But like everyone else reaching for that elusive prestigious position that would bestow on me respect and acceptance, I hid myself behind what I thought was acceptable. By whom? Why, by all those other people doing the same thing! And because I hid myself – even from myself – I became a fool for clothing – for appearance over substance.
I don’t know how many of you reading this experienced something similar; even so many years after WWII, after women’s lib, and after the great leaps in civility we’ve accomplished, we live fearfully. There is so much worry and anxiety that it’s hard not to hide behind the mask of acceptability.
But there is a problem with hiding behind this mask. The problem is that it will never lead to being happy with life. I keep thinking of the 5 main regrets of the dying; one of these regrets was about not doing what they had always wanted to do. Not trying it at least. Not even tasting it.
If you feel you may be hiding, I’m not about to suggest you throw off your cloak and reveal all. If that act doesn’t give you a heart attack on the spot, it might at least put you in real peril. After all, all your friends and associates are very used to the hidden version of you. Instead, I suggest you find some small thing that gives you a taste. Then if that feels good to you, take another taste, then another.
Eventually, you might find yourself, one day, in a surprisingly different world; one where everything is color and sound, taste and smell; where you feel more alive than you ever remember feeling.
Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .