It’s a time for introspection here and that is not one easily balanced with a more present need to keep the coffers functioning in a way that means everyone gets fed and watered. Family life has a complicated way of needing to carry on, even when you heartily wish there was no need to do so. Which is – as much as it is possible to say so – an apology both outwards, inwards and upwards for needing to carry on doing what keeps the cogwheels turning.
Perhaps that has been the greatest lesson of the last five years. Even if the world collapses it does not, in fact, stop spinning. And sometimes coincidence means the cogs grind together in a way that doesn’t sit comfortably here any more than it might do from the outside. And much as we found ourselves taking the children out to their evening activities on the very worst day of our lives, so I find myself having to carry on today – with a smile and a voice and some ability to make the cogs keep spinning, put food on the table, fulfill the roles my jobs entail, even when I wish it wasn’t so.
So it is.
All I can think of of course is what any reader might imagine is in my head. That this day 5 years ago was my last properly happy day. April 1st, a day that I worried quite ridiculously might give me an April Fool’s Day birthday boy. If it had, perhaps life would be very different now. Who knows? This is how it is though; the tiny undercurrent of knowing how much the universe has grated against us and left us rough and raw, while keeping going, making a living, taking children out to their gym and taekwondo and running them in the garden to make sure they sleep tonight. Today is about balancing the need to finish the flowers on a birthday wreath with making sure revision happens, course folders are filled in, and playdough doesn’t get trodden into the carpet.
You do the job that is in front of you.
There is a book called Life after Life, one of my absolute favourites by one of my absolute favourite authors. In it the same person lives and dies repeatedly, retrying life and taking a new route each time. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. There are always consequences. And sometimes I look back at the last few years and think “if I hadn’t made that decision back then, we would never have had him and all this would never have happened”. And I wonder if I would prefer that? What if he had never come? What if I had only ever learned about the joy of walking round Tesco and planning setting up a safe nursery and never learned about taking apart an empty one? What if I hadn’t never learned how it felt to walk about that same store, herded accidentally into the baby aisles and inexplicably followed by the klaxon shriek of a feisty newborn and not known the depth of feeling such innocent things can bring? What if I could go back, reply, try a different outcome? Would I?
From the beginning, there have always been the days that have felt bludgeoned by coincidence, when baby blue eyes followed me round a shop, his name appeared in my book or film, the days when a chance email scraped away the thin veneer of self control I had. And how I raged. I RAGED. The unfairness, the insensitivity, the pain and broken-hearted recovery I had to do each time. It felt as if the world was out to get me.
Then my sister suggested I learned to see these things as a hello. A little wave, a nudge to say “I’m here, I see you.” And so I do, even if – as today – the nudge comes in as something so heavily and bluntly linked that it takes all my head to overrule my heart and go ahead.
I’m choosing to see it as him saying, “Hello. Pay the gym fees. Have this one on me.”
This is a collaborative post. Forgive me.