Friday, April 27, 2007

'Mother Has Left the Building'

No. No, it's not going to happen. Again. Or is it?

A post, that is. A few moments of concentration, of mind-taming, in the bliss that has been my last few days. Couldn't manage it the last three nights. Let's see:

Three days ago I waved my life goodbye at Gatwick Airport, little one trundling her Pooh Bear bag through Passport Control with heartbreaking concentration, other hand holding tight to the Bim.

Then I said hello to my life as I vaguely remember it, and GOD has it been good.

I know I'd been looking after alot of people - small people, sick people and various sundry things brought in by Anna-mouse from the garden - I know this. I know that I hadn't had space (or even the time) in which to swing a cat for quite some time. I know this too. And that my body had begun to argue with me the moment I woke up each morning. But it wasn't until I got back to the empty house on Tuesday night and really began to feel time and space and silence as physical entities working together for the good of my soul that I realised how very, very much in need of down-time I was.

As the Universe would have it, I also had a cold, which was a good thing, because it meant that I couldn't be Esme's date on her second chemo outing. I rang a couple of health helplines to confirm that sneezing in the Chemotherapy ward wouldn't be the best idea. (Cancerbackup are excellent). So there was nothing for it but to bury my plans to be a fantastically supportive daughter and be a fantastically good friend to myself, instead.

For a dreamer/reflective/former depressive like me, it's thinking space that I miss most of all when I am on constant toddler call. That, and the luxury to be able to do things in my own time. I'm a slow person. I don't like to rush. These days I don't rush around like a blue-arsed fly; I am a blue-arsed fly. I bang into glass doors and hop off walls in my efforts to get where I'm going. The last few days, I have begun to find my natural rhythm again.

Oh the joy.

I have gardened. Weeded with a vengeance, for long, long periods of time. The hours I spent doing this were like velvet stretched out before me. I went to war and won - beds and borders are clear: de-cluttered, unchoked, ready for a new lease of life.

I went to an audition and acted my socks off. Got down to the last two, as it turned out. Didn't even mind when the job went to the other girl because the Producer knew her. Fuck it, I said to myself (which was fun, because I don't get to swear much grown-uply anymore) - the satisfaction was in the confidence I felt in myself for the twenty minutes I was in there.

That night I went to the theatre, and once again felt utterly who I am, at one, in that place where the lights go down and a magic world unfolds before you.

I lit candles and had baths at odd times. I stayed up late with all the lights on. I made alot of noise at midnight - ah, how I miss my nocturnal habits. I knew that I could race round the house with a pair of knickers on my head shouting 'Bollocks!', if I wanted.

In short, I let Responsibility, that lard-like substance that can get so very stuck between the shoulder blades, slide from me to the floor, where I neatly side-stepped it and then promptly forgot it was there at all.

How fine it is, to have a shimmy with yourself once in a while.

My beloveds come back tomorrow. I will drive to the Airport, await them with beating heart and greet them with open arms. I long for the press of my girl's body against my own. For the Bim's fleecy hug. But when we're all safely home and cosy-tosy in our routine once again - when Anna-mouse is down, and the Bim and I are recovering on the sofa - I'll turn to him and, all casual-like, as if I've just thought of it, ask So when d'you think you might go away again?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Line

In case it has been wondered, I have not been shirking.

I have not been swanning about of an evening and thinking Hey ho, shall I take myself up to the dear old computer and dash off a quick post before a cup of Horlicks and early bed...

Oh no. It feels as if I have swum rivers, climbed mountains, nay, parted the seas no less, to get to this place of time and silence tonight. Beginning to type, I realise I have been well nigh desperate to write.

So because I have little capacity to remember anything but sensation these days unless I write it down, I take up my turquoise Equity diary and just out of curiosity take a look at what exactly I have been doing which has kept me from this blog.

For one thing, I discover that in the last couple of weeks
I have accompanied too many people I love in and out of hospitals.

In one of life's Sent-To-Try-Us stunts, the Bim was required to undergo a procedure almost identical to the one which uncovered Esme's cancer. We admitted to each other yesterday that in the days before he went in - which passed in a frenzy of high nerves and excessive chocolate consumption on my part, and outbursts of anger on his - we both had him down to die. We were therefore astonished and vastly relieved to discover that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that particular end of him.

(He goes in for another test tomorrow but this time we're almost blase in our optimism, seeing as he was given the all clear down below and understanding that you can't live at that level of anxiety for any length of time without going nuts or divorcing).

Then Esme began her chemotherapy treatment.

Sailing through the first 36 hours she crashed to earth in the wee small hours of the second night. She was alone, and it was awful. The drugs brought their spiteful side to the fore and I ended up staying with her the following night, just so that I knew that if she woke in distress or pain, there was someone there. I lived alone for many years. I know about those graveyard hours. I know what it is to wake and wish for all the world for someone you love to be within call.

That day saw Anna-m and me accompanying her to the hospital.

What kind of cancer did you have? I asked the man next to me in the waiting area as gently as I could. Stomach, he said. Big as yer fist.

Good thing they found it, we agreed.

How have you found your chemo? I asked, wanting him to say the impossible, that he sailed through - side effects pah!

There are good days and bad days, he said. As everyone does. Today, he said, his eyes widening with the surprise of it, my tooth fell out! Just fell out, onto me plate, just like that. I make a mental note not to mention this to Esme, then find myself blurting it out in the car on the way home. We both agree that this couldn't possibly happen to her, and rubbish the state of the man's gums.

There been good moments, too:

The rough, sticky earth in my fingernails as I plant up happy purple pansies in the garden's newly dug border.

An extraordinary, button-punching conversation about love, and God, with a Quaker couple of fifty years.

The joy in Anna-mouse's hug of greeting after her first morning alone at play school.

Typing for my father and realising that he has written his best play for years.

And tonight. A family gathering. Esme's birthday. Her tired, worn face. Her spirit which continues to soar.

I mention this spirit to my father when I deliver the finished script to him earlier in the day. A further, bittersweet side effect of Esme's illness has been his genuine and apparent concern for her after so many divided years.

But she's always been like that, he says. She's always been able to rise above things. Has she? I say, mainly because I want to hear him say it all again, so rare is it for me to hear him say nice things of her. My teenage years were riven with snide asides from either side. It heals some strife-worn part of me, to hear him speak so, and my eyes brim with tears.

I wonder often, these days, why it takes a brush with the life/death divide - the Line, we should call it - to wake our sleepy souls and feel the rush of air that is life as it is meant to be lived: from a place of love, and acceptance, with a steady forward, not backward, march.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Livvy and Co. Share a Birthday

My birthday came, my birthday went. With considerably less ceremony than in years previous. Though it had its moments.

I woke early, savouring for a small second the only day of the year when I find it easy to cut myself some slack, give in to my every whim and generally count myself as someone pretty special. Easy, that is, until this year.

Daddy? calls out Anna-mouse from her cot. Hmm. Here we go.

No, Daddy's gone to work, darling. He'll be back this afternoon. But Anna - do you remember? - it's Mummy's birthday!

When will the party be? she asks, cutting to the chase.

Later on today, I say vaguely, since we actually had the party - complete with birthday cups and plates and those ever so frightening popping streamer things that sound like someone's being shot - yesterday, when the Bim's sister was still here, on the last day of her visit.

I can't quite believe that I'm expecting her to march into the bedroom with a rosette for me saying 'Birthday Girl' on it - but some small, really not very grown-up part of me has to admit that I do.

Actually, I've already started my birthday, I call out brightly, hopefully, from my bed to hers.

Well I haven't, she grumps back.

Things don't improve during the present-opening ceremony, which in time-honoured style I like to savour sitting up in bed with a cup of tea.

It's MY present, Mummy! shrieks child, tightening tiny hands round the best-looking parcel in a surprisingly vice-like grip.

Actually, darling, I think you'll find that it's MINE AND I WANT TO OPEN IT!

Funny what punches our buttons. Without being able to stop myself, I - celebrating as-near to-mid-life-as-dammit kind of birthday - enter into an unholy tug-of-war with not-yet-three-year old daughter over the right to tear the pretty paper off one of the presents I've so carefully horded all week. Recovering slightly, I realise this might not be the best way to demonstrate the tricky concept of SHARING on which we've been working so hard.

Okay! I concede. Okay, you can open that one, while I open this one, I say.

All the presents, and all the cards, are divided accordingly and we each get to work, Anna-m feigning ignorance of the fact that I am keeping a weather eye on her pile and am really rather cross.

Oh, thankyou Mummy! she says with enormous magnanimity each time she pulls one of my presents from its wrapping. I grit my teeth and smile.

(God bless Dee, who foresaw this problem, and sent me a bouquet with a Happy Birthday balloon attached to satisfy the little one, while I indulged in a spot of rather smug flower-arranging).

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Forgetting to Remember

Lately, I forgot about me.

Given the inordinate amounts of time I used to spend thinking about myself, crying about myself and generally worrying about myself, believe me, this was no bad thing.

Until, that is, one morning last week when I woke up barely able to move.

The problem was in my neck. Life was being a pain, and sure enough my body was impersonating the problem. If I wanted to do anything but look straight ahead, I had to do a very strange, robotic kind of twist from the waist.

This is not good, I thought. This is not safe, sensible, or sexy (hardly a major consideration these days but you know - I still wouldn't throw the Bim out of bed for making crumbs...) Something must be done, I thought.

And so it was that I began to remember about me.

At first, this was a painful task. When I finally acknowledged to myself the great toll the last weeks have taken, I had to admit that even carrying Anna-mouse was hurting - every time. After initial, frightful stand-offs (what good's a mother who can't give you a 'huggle', for crying out loud), Anna-mouse went into 'hopital' mode, got out her two stethoscopes, ear torch and red plastic hammer and proceeded to put me through several rigorous check-ups. (Which were so winsome they did, in fact, do quite alot for my aching heart).

The next bit I enjoyed. I began to think about what would make me feel better. What did I used to do, I thought, when I was young, free and single? What made my heart sing?

There it is. What makes my heart sing? What would ease my soul enough to ease some of the pain in my neck?

Well, for starters I have booked a massage. The fact that I have booked it for the afternoon of my birthday makes it even more likely that I will let myself enjoy it.

And I accumulated a pile of books by my bed. Okay, so that might be more of a wishlist kind of thing, given I can barely still my mind enough to read the shopping list at the moment, but it's another start. Nothing like the promise of some beautifully put-together words, to my mind.

And, tonight, I lit a candle. Just a small, unassuming nightlight, not even in a candle holder, just burning bare next to me on the desk. I remembered myself just a few years ago in my little garret flat in Camberwell; how I used to hang out of my top storey window, almost touching the leaves of the plane tree, watching the street's life below. How, as the sirens brought in the dusk, I would bring myself in, strew the flat with candles, pour myself a glass of wine, light a cigarette and dream of a life happier, and less alone, than the life I was living then.

The smokes are gone, the damn hormones have severely limited my capacity to drink, but the candles - those small, hopeful nightlights - remain. It is good to lose yourself sometimes, but not to sorrow, as I have done a little recently, and did really quite alot in the past.

Tonight, I have my remembering cap on again.