When I was a child, I read a book called The Discontented Pony by Noel Barr. The fact that I can remember most of the story forty years later indicates quite what an impression it made on me. The story centres around a pony called Merrylegs who lives and works on a farm. He has a good life, friends and the freedom of the fields, but he feels discontented and starts to dream about what else he could do. He goes to market with the farmer on fair day, sees the magnificent carousel horses and wishes he could be one of them. He goes back at night but the carousel horses, which he so admired, are now silent and unresponsive. He is caught by the fairground owners who tether him so he can’t get away. They want to put him to work pulling a cart. He’s frightened but eventually goes to sleep. In the morning he escapes and runs back to the farm, grateful for what he has and no longer wishing to be anything else. He is discontented no longer.
The reason for telling you the story is because I feel a lot like the pony before he went to follow his dreams. I know this is a children’s story but it made such an impression on me and now, as my adult self, I get quite annoyed with it and its message. To me, the moral of the story is to be happy with what you’ve got, don’t try to better yourself, stick to what is safe and comfortable. Don’t get ideas above your station, you will regret it. It also says to me that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence, which I agree with, but I don’t see why that is a reason not to go and explore the world. Life and expectations were very different in 1954 when this was first published and when I read the book in the early 1970s gender roles were still quite narrowly defined. Girls weren’t expected to be bold and adventurous, at least not in my little corner of the world. But it’s hard to change the beliefs instilled in you when you were little, at least in my experience. We are all so much a product of our upbringing.
I’m very grateful for what I have; I have no major worries, there is no illness to worry about, no major upsets to deal with. I should be contented. But still I wish for more, a different life or at least an evolving one. I’m not talking about running away or taking a holiday or finding interesting work or anything like that. Nor am I talking about my little boy tying me down. I don’t feel that way about him; in fact he sets me free most of the time. He is the best thing about my entire life. Hubby is contented, happy to stay as we are. But I need a whole new approach. I am not where I want to be, literally or metaphorically.
Kate’s Groovymums project is a great source of inspiration, and she keeps me ticking along week by week. I nurture myself more now with the little things that make me happy, and that is a direct result of rising to Kate’s challenges. Every morning I wake up and see my copy of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers on the wall, I buy pretty things for myself, and burn scented candles because they make me happy and I find fire hypnotic. I make more time to read, because it feeds me. I wouldn’t have made so many changes had it not been for the challenges on Kate’s blog. At least, by being involved with the Groovymums, I’m making small changes to my life and I think that keeps me from having a complete hissy fit – probably not a good look on someone of my age! But these things aren’t sustaining me and I’m starting to feel like I’m just exploring the insects in the grass rather than looking towards the blue sky and sunshine. I’m not completely over the hill yet, I just feel like it. I’m sure there must be more adventure to be had. I’m looking at the brightly coloured creatures in the distance and wishing I could be like them.
Is anyone else feeling anything similar? Am I talking rubbish? Am I just having a mid-life crisis? Should I just keep quiet and be grateful that my husband has a job and we’re not about to have the house repossessed? Answers on a postcard, by commenting, by email, by Tweet or direct message, I don’t mind. I find I learn the most from other people’s experiences and perceptions. Any insights gratefully received.