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Blame It On Maugham

I blame it on Somerset Maugham – that summer somewhere around my sixteenth year, when I immersed myself in his writing and found an argument for living impulsively.  Can’t say exactly what it was in his words that prompted this conclusion (the storylines lost in my faded memory), but I do remember being fascinated with the concept of the “Razor’s Edge”, equating it with the expression:

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In retrospect, I glazed over the fact that a razor’s edge is sharp and the probability of getting hurt is 100%.  Such is the romanticized workings of a teenage mind.

In truth, I feared normalcy – never was a straight-line kind of gal – convinced myself that it was decisiveness, not impulse, that drove me; adopted a what have I got to lose attitude.

It is cruel to discover one’s mediocrity only when it is too late.

– W. Somerset Maugham,
‘Of Human Bondage”, 1915

Decisiveness convinced me to invest in a bookstore with no prior knowledge of the business nor any retail management. An opportunity presented itself and I jumped -book’s were my passion, after all – out of the proverbial pan into the fire.  Only months out of a ruptured marriage, and still in a state of shock, it felt hopeful to throw myself into something new.  In hindsight, I was grasping.

Excess on occasion is exhilarating.  It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.
– W. Somerset Maugham

What I failed to appreciate about opening a single proprietorship was the countless hours of work involved and how that might affect my single-parented children; not to mention that running a bookstore was a bit like living in a fishbowl:  with the full impact of my grief on public display.  Specializing in self-help and inspirational literature drew in a plethora of other wounded souls looking for comfort, and I was stretched beyond my limits.th-5I lost the store in the end; unwilling to let go when things were failing, I hung on until it dragged me under.  What I thought was following my passion actually mired my children in the travails of my misery.  I had deserted them in their crucial time of need, burying myself so deeply in reams of books and papers, pretending this was support.

The financial bankruptcy that loomed at the end was nothing compared to the emotional deficit I’d created in my children, and worse, the example I’d set that impulsivity is an acceptable life choice.th-6

 

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Categories: family memoir nonfiction

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V.J. Knutson

Writer, avid reader, former educator, and proud grandmother, currently experiencing life through the lens of ME/CFS. Words are, and always have been, a lifeline. Some of the best adventures, I'm discovering, take place in the imagination.

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