I am quickly approaching 40, falling by every definition into the spinster category: unmarried, unwooed and with my very own cat collection (albeit a small one, counting only two). What does not appear in this picture however, is that I am already in a relationship; long-standing, demanding, at times quite awful, at other times worth it all. I have fallen under the spell of the worst guy of all: THE MUSE!
“But,” people say, “muses are Greek goddesses running across meadows in fluttering garments.” I laugh at them then, loud and shrilling. “No, I say, “Muses can take any shape they want. They are cunning and treacherous and quite possibly lethal. ONE thing is certainly for sure: they WILL take over your life.”
So how does one contract such a thing as a muse? I think some (if not all) of us have one at birth. The little voice in our heads that helps us see what the grown-ups don’t: landscapes in the ceiling, a ballroom on the couch. That thing that helps us give imaginary flesh and to our dolls and pops images into our minds while we draw. Or maybe the child’s imagination is just the bait, the flower scent that draws the muses to us, to nest and make comfortable homes for themselves deep inside our brains. Not necessarily forever. I think muses come and go. I think it’s quite possible to drive them away by not feeding them enough of things they like. A steady diet of bills, responsibilities and stress will easily bore them and send them packing to the next unfortunate soul. Other muses, however, take a hold, and become like mine: a committed life-partner for better or for worse. He’s here to stay, and he’s never going away.
Living with the muse is living deep down the rabbit hole. He prattles on each day; feeding me snippets of stories or new grand ideas. Which is good, if that was all I was supposed to do that day, sit by my desk, making up new things. Not so good when reality demands my attention. I have a child to feed, a job to mind, and certainly not the freedom to explore every this or that the muse is throwing my way.
He gets sulky then, annoyed. At times he has fits of rage:
“Why do you go to work NOW? I had a whole CHAPTER planned for us today…”
Sometimes he is with me at my day job. Sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear:
“You don’t belong here. You shouldn’t be sitting here. You should be at home, working on your novel… All these things you do, it’s just nonsense. It doesn’t mean anything – not really – not to you… THIS thing, that I have planned, however, it means everything. This thing, this is it. This is where your soul is. This thing… it’s your heart’s blood…”
Thankfully, a lot of what I do for a living is creative work. It pacifies him somewhat. Gives him something to play with. Back in the days when desk duty was all I did, every day was a constant struggle. In the end it didn’t work out. The muse won. I couldn’t do it. He drove me out of my job.
It’s like living in perpetual twilight: between the world you inhabit and the world within. Alone with the muse, everything is dandy. We work, we laugh, we cry, we love. Once there are other factors in the equation, things gets messy. He is very jealous. Very demanding. He pushes me – hard – all the time. Making up things, playing with concepts, distracts me with fireworks; bursts of ideas. The internal cinema is never closed. The soundtrack never mute. If he feels ignored, I am in hell. I question every life choice, relive my every defeat. I feel trapped and tormented by society itself. Long to run wild in the mountains with the muse at my side – and quite possibly a goat, to complete the picture…
He is the worst guy.
Without him, I would certainly be content I think. I would have made very different choices. My CV would have been different. My living arrangements too. Maybe there would even have been a real guy. I would have lived in peace with my surroundings. I wouldn’t feel like an ostrich in a chicken shed. I would have been like the others; content with my lot, with no bigger worries than who’ll pick up the kids, and are we really going to see grandma on Saturday?
But on other days, I think that i am blessed: he infuses with feelings of purpose that go quite a bit beyond the mundane. Maybe is my experience of life richer and fuller than many of my peers because of him? How lucky am I to be allowed to examine my heart’s blood and see what it is made of? When with him; I stretch and twist and grow all time. I explore and discover. I create. For people not struggling with a muse, this existence might seem very self-involved, but it’s not: it’s more like running several parallel universes in your head at all times. You rarely have time to brood or obsess, not if you surrender yourself to the muse. It is at times agony – but also at times bliss, and can reward you with a feeling of deep contentment. Sometimes it’s euphoria: pure and unaltered joy. He is like a drug this guy, so addictive and sweet, you simply can’t get enough…
So by the end of the day, my guy is all worth it. All the fighting and raging and shouting. The jealousy and the the torment. Because he really is “all that”. Everything I could ask for in a partner – and then some.
I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the world.
I truly, deeply love the worst guy…
I’ve mused about the muse before, in Interfictions 2.
The lovely absinthe sipping muse (aka. the green faerie) is by Liv Lingborn.