Yesterday, on the path of going with the flow, I discovered a not-to-be-missed stunner of a place in Buenos Aires. Remember how the last little instalment of Sallycat’s Adventures saw me touching the Virgin of Luján? Well, the next thing I knew, one of my best friends here was telling me that a friend of hers, Lilian Laura Ivachow, was screening her new film-short, PABLO Y VIRGINIA…VIAJAN A LUJÁN, at the Biblioteca Nacional.
Do you fancy it? said my friend. Oh yes, said I.
The film turned out to be quite brilliant. I loved it. It’s the story of two people who meet while making the annual pilgrimage walk to Luján and it’s a moving study of human relationships (with others, with ourselves, with the things we believe in). The setting of the Luján pilgrimage is intriguing, and the subtitles do not cheat you out of connecting with the characters, who are great actors, and who improvise their interactions, around some topics given to them by the director (she told us that afterwards). I say, see it, if you ever get the chance.
And it was not just the setting within the film that intrigued me. Entering the vast concrete space that’s created by the Biblioteca Nacional, I could not believe that I had never found it before. It is a powerful (and some might say, ugly) place: towering shapes that loom overhead; ramps, walkways, and terraces that coax you to step on to them; a mix of deep shadows and bright light (on a sunny day) that begs you to take out your camera. I started saying Wow! to myself as I wandered up Aguero from Avenida Las Heras. Sallycat, you’ve been past this turn a thousand times on the bus. How could you not have explored a little further? How could you not have seen what was there, just around the corner? How could you not have wanted to know? You might have missed it altogether.
I had a coffee with my friend before the film. The terrace of the first floor café appears to hang over the walkways below. We sat there, suspended for a moment above the rush and crush of the city, on chairs of rather wacky design. We talked about what it feels like to live your life on the edge. Or at least, I poured out my heart on the subject. To my relief, I discovered that she understood me: she understands because she is pushing the boundaries of her world, too.
Once upon a time, my life was a little bit like a nice comfy sofa: lots of lovely things around me, like proper and very expensive beds, Nespresso coffee machines and ready-made pods of coffee efficiently delivered in the post, conversations all in English, a husband with a well-paid job and great prospects, a pretty cottage-style house with a gorgeous garden, endless writing courses, craft courses, gardening courses, holidays all around the globe… a kind of secure feeling inside, a safe feeling. Unfortunately there was also a slightly dead feeling, a sense that I could be more, do more, become more. No matter that I could always have more: a new sports car, a big flat screen TV, a new loft conversion; having more did not solve the dead feeling. Yes, to be sure, it was a nice comfy sofa, but it was so nice and comfy that I was falling asleep on it, and my soul was dying.
Now the cushioned sofa is no more. In a twist of fate, my sofa these days, also happens to be my bed. And, the very fact that I have to fold it from bed to sofa and back every day to create the room where I want to spend the next twelve hours, means action. If I want to share it with Carlos, I have to get up and turn the sofa into a bed. If I want a house that feels like a workspace, or a sitting room, or a space to entertain friends in, I have to put the bed away… it feels symbolic to me. Even my sofa won’t let me doze off for too long. Thank God. But being wide awake and walking hand in hand with my soul is not always easy for me, and perched above the streets of Buenos Aires yesterday, I felt able to speak my current truth.
I’m scared, I said to my friend. When I’ve finished this book, what will I do? Who will I be? What will my life become? Will people like it, hate it, want to know me, not want to know me? What will I do with the thousands of hours I’ve poured into it? Where will I direct my energy next? How will it feel to send the book out there, let it find its own way, let it go, actually finish something of my own for the first time in my whole life?
It all came out in a rush. The fear.
It’s okay, she said. Normal. Normal to be scared. Especially normal to be scared when you live your life on the edge.
Yeah, I said. The edge. The edge of pushing your boundaries in the effort to discover who you really can be. The edge that means the utter joy of realising that you can experience everything your heart desires, if you want to. The edge that means the dark terror of feeling that every step is a step into the unknown. We who push our boundaries every day… we who don’t just dream, but who hound our dreams until they become our realities, have to find out the consequences of those dreams… and here I am, scared of the consequences of mine.
And yet, if I could, would I change my life, and go back to the comfy sofa? Let’s face it, I do have a choice. I could just bin the book manuscript right now, and never even hand it to my little band of Buenos Aires Beta Readers in the next couple of weeks. Yeah right… I could bin the book. But I won’t. The test readers will be reading it. Then you’ll be reading it. And then there’ll be the critiques and the comments and the silence and the good parts and the bad parts and the out of date parts and the next edition and the next edition after that and if it all gets too much I can run off to Brazil, or the Falklands or something! Ha! Oh, who knows what will happen?
Yesterday I went with the Luján flow, left the same old 59 bus route behind, and ended up in a completely unexpected but amazing and inspiring space; I had the conversation I needed; and I came home knowing what I would write about today on this blog. I think the Virgin of Luján had a message for me, and it was this: Walk boldly into the new places hidden just around the corner of your life, because only then can you see the next space, the next action, and so become who you are really meant to be.
Yes, I might sometimes feel that I am living on the very edge of my capabilities, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m about to fall. Rather, if I keep moving my edge forwards, I can continue to build my very own rather beautiful and unique road. I’ve just got to keep believing that I can. And somewhere, deep down, under all the fear, I do. I do. And I will.
Meanwhile, if you’re visiting Buenos Aires and would like to be inspired by the power of the Biblioteca Nacional, here are some photographs of what you can expect, and in case you need it, you can find the address and a map here.