Of all the places to start, there is in the end, only the beginning.
And I do so like beginnings. Change. Fresh starts. A promise. Of something better. Something more. This particular beginning should, I felt, take the shape of a letter. A letter from me to you. Because that's the idea. That this page should be a place of exchange, of insights shared.
I am not a trained therapist, nor do I pretend to be a font of all knowledge. Oh I have had parents separate, a fiance cheat on me. I have been sexually adventurous, known searing loneliness and crushing anxiety. I have been fat and I have been thin. I've had my shit, though no more than the next person, and probably less than many. But at 41 I've learned sometimes just the voicing of a problem gets you halfway there to resolving it. That while one person's hell is another's notion of good fortune, hell is hellish. And trauma is traumatic; the traumas life deals out giving rise to different levels of resilience in each of us.
In his book Empathy: Why It Matters And How To Get It, Roman Krznaric urges us to temper our contemporary fixation on "introspection" with a healthy dose of "outrospection". Agreed, but surely one need not negate the other. Navel-gazing and a wider perspective on the world can, in fact, make happy bedfellows. Is it not true that it is only when we go to our core, reveal both what troubles and delights us, that our collective humanity is affirmed? For me, being the good daughter of 1980s feminism that I am, the personal will always be political.
No life is too small, no problem too shallow, that in bringing it out into the open a greater light is not cast upon a bigger picture.
Late one night recently, full of despair from a possibly imagined ailment, I checked into an online women's health forum. Immediately I felt cheered. I found not a solution, but the solace of a common misery, and that, in and of itself, went some way to fixing me.
Expat journalist Mary Fenwick writes an advice column in the British magazine, Psychologies. In a recent interview with the New Zealand Listener, she said she is actually "allergic to advice", that she believes we have our best answers within ourselves.
If she is right, then perhaps we might treat this page as a noticeboard of sorts. Somewhere you may come seeking something or conversely with something to offer. It is my intention our roles should be more fluid than fixed. Reader, writer, counsellor, confessor: that we might all take our turn. Perhaps there is in your life a husband whose cross-dressing fantasies leave you cold, a neighbour who wants to paint his house the exact shade of duck egg blue as yours. In my life there is a husband I fear sometimes prefers the freedom of the open sea to me, and a friend who, every time, must be chased for payment. Perhaps together we can help each other to find our best answers within ourselves.
As I write this, I think how I would have liked your input today. Having decided I was too time-poor to stand alongside a group of my brave fellow citizens blockading the entrance to a major petroleum conference, I am now racked with guilt. But I have children who need collecting from school; I can't be committing acts of civil disobedience. Should I have thrown caution to the wind, heeded the call to action? I would have welcomed your thoughts, your wise counsel.
And there you go; now you know something about me. That I am a left-leaning, slightly neurotic mother of two. Whether or not you have children yourself, whether or not you are a perfectly well-adjusted Tory, I hope in the spirit of tolerance we can be friends.
Building a friendship founded on the old-fashioned virtues of the written word. A friendship conducted by correspondence. And as friends we will share not only our woes - the minutiae that vex us during the day, the doubts which beset us in the deepest, darkest night - but our joys, too.
Yours in anticipation,