The late 1980s were plush years. Lots of excess: money, cars, houses, travel, shopping. Not just for me, but the 1980s truly rocked for many business entrepreneurs and investors, world-wide. At the time, I was living outside Edinburgh, Scotland, in a house which overlooked the Firth of Forth, on 10 acres of land, with stables and a beautiful secret garden. Built in 1756, our house had seen many transformations. In the mid century, it had even been a restoration home for aging and ailing monks, and so we often found small relics and gems in the strangest places–whiskey bottles between walls, yellowed, crumbling scripture leaflets, and weird, often times, scary, religious iconography on the bathroom doors. And there were many bathrooms, many doors.
The main house was three stories high, with beautiful, cavernous rooms, some of which contained marble fireplaces and cherub ceilings. The wing, added on to the house in the mid 19th century, also had many bathrooms accompanying the seventeen bedrooms, and various formal areas. It was truly a beautiful house, in a majestic setting, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a house where I felt more displaced, depressed, downright, miserable.
A stranger may have found this difficult to believe. For it appeared that we had it all–not just the house, but a Rolls Royce, BMW, matching Range Rovers, a Daimler. We owned property all over Scotland, an apartment in London, and even a fine-dining restaurant in Glasgow. We travelled a great deal, shopped a great deal, and lived a life of great excess. Yet, I couldn’t have been unhappier, more isolated, or disconnected from the world and those around me. Every time I drove along the stretching driveway leading to our house –Drummohr House (yes, it even had a name)– I felt this absolute despair building inside me. It simply didn’t feel like home and I’d lost any real sense of how I related to this whole “fairy-tale” life that I was living.
In truth, like all fairy tales, this one was also fictional. Married to a man 20 years older than me, I was living his life, his dream. I’d completely lost every sense of “self” in this supposedly picture-perfect world.
Inside our world it wasn’t so picture perfect, though. And over the space of ten years, my husband’s volatile moods and often violent tendencies reduced me to an unrecognizable version of the kick-arse young woman who, at 20, had left home, travelling the world with nothing more than a few dollars and an adventurous spirit. That’s not to say that there wasn’t adventure in my life, though. For my husband took too many risks, preferring, always, to cut corners, especially when it came to property development. There were always deals with dodgey business partners, and even dodgier attorneys. Eventually, the banks, the partners, and the attorneys weren’t enough to save us from the inevitable. And when my husband was finally convicted and sentenced to an 18 mth sentence for mortgage fraud, I was neither surprised or very well prepared for all that it set in motion.
The 1980s came to a close with a financial crisis rivaling the 1929 stock exchange collapse. Banks fell, property prices plummeted, “friends” disappeared overnight. Eventually, we lost everything–our houses, our cars, our restaurant, our proverbial “cake.” My newly born daughter was never to experience the hand-painted fine nursery set, specially ordered from Harrods. Yet, I felt freer and happier than I had in years. Because for years there hadn’t been one true ounce of “me” in the lavish life that I’d been leading. None of it had ever been my dream, my life. I’d just been swept along amidst all the glamor and glitter.
That’s the weird thing about leading a life of luxury– it leaves you strangely wanting for nothing.
It’s taken a couple of decades, but I think I’ve finally gotten the “wanting” part right. These days I’ve found a new passion for wanting–I want to write, I want to create, I want to contribute. It’s amazing to wake each day knowing that I’m capable of being happy, anywhere.
Sometimes losing it all is not the end. It’s the lesson.