having it all – on my own terms

The last five years all of my work has been involving modern life. I made a film and gave dozens of lectures about yuppie disease, suffered from it myself over the last fifteen years, am writing a book about that struggle and last year I made a film about young modern women trying to make it all work; It’s in the sky. And thinking about these subjects over and over again, haven’t made them easier to deal with. What changed since I began suffering from panic attacks fifteen years ago? Only more people have gone the same road. I still get weekly emotional reactions on my documentary film from all over the world. It seems like gender, cultural background, race, money, children, no children, religion or education don’t really matter in these issues, what binds us all is ambition. As soon as you’re ambitious in this world you encounter a great deal of personal challenges that are not out in the open. The more we wish to achieve in life, the higher the personal price is. And that, strangely, is still a secret.

I still feel overwhelmed by modern life. By everything there is to be, to have and to become. The urge I feel to be a part of something larger and more meaningful than myself. It is something so powerful that, even I know it’s not the way, is getting to me like a rabbit in the headlights. And sooner or later, it makes me feel horrible. It’s making my sick, anxious, unimaginative, unproductive, unkind, distracted, unhappy, unhealthy and old.Yes all of that. Trying to be everything I want to be, is actually resulting in the opposite. And that is plain stupid.

The responsibility and workload of filming, editing, producing, meetings, money, planning, together with a life as a woman, a mother of two, a wife, a friend, a family member, a dog owner and a fashionable and spiritual human being, was slowly killing me. The ongoing noise of traffic, advertisement, television, my telephone, the neighbours. The sky that never seems to go black at night, the flood of emails and messages, the children’s constant demand of more attention, my husband wanting to talk about problems at work while the dog still needs to go out and my quinoa-chickpea-tumeric recipe is taking way longer than the children’s bedtime. I was so tired but not in a position to admit. I knew I didn’t want to make a new film, deep in my heart I knew. But what was I going to do? Everything I do is based on my identity as a filmmaker. Our life was costing a fortune and everybody was looking at my next move, at least, that’s what I told myself. 

Something had to change. And in a far more profound way than I could imagine. Or I would start to loose the things that really mattered. My health would be the first to go down. When you are as fortunate as I count myself to be, you have a extra responsibility to make the most of your life. To not whine and cry, but get up and act, and, in general, be honest.

So I started to look deeper in what’s bugging me so much, and what’s bugging so many of my friends. Why are our lives the way they are? Who’s setting the standard? And how can it be better? How can I investigate modern life with the same seriousness and precision I do with many other aspects in my life, like my career, my clothes and my children. Why don’t I take life itself that serious? Why I am I willing to sacrifice so much for what exactly? More of what I already have?  It strikes me as an independent, freelance, educated woman, how much of my ideas, choices and life events have been dictated by others. I’m much deeper in the web than I was aware of.

So my first move is to literally move. To set myself free from the invisible ties of how things should be. We just moved from Amsterdam to a tiny village hidden deep in the French Pyrenees. No shops, no traffic, no likeminds, no aspirational achievers, no demanding society. Only farmers, retired elders and nature. I want to start over from scratch. I’m leaving my assignments, my status, my friends, my house. I’m taking my family, my laptop and one bag of clothes. And I’m going to explore how I can be a mother, a woman, a filmmaker, a writer and happy on my own terms. See if I have the guts to give up on all the things I think I need so much.

 

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