Today I decided not to rush. Lately I’ve been feeling like the white rabbit; running around with my watch in my hand, saying “I’m late I’m late I’m late.” It’s horrible. I feel on end all the time, trying to juggle a dozen things at once. The kids suffer, too. They hate being rushed.
The day I really lost it, the shouty day, is referred to by them as the Rushing Day. My boy says “Are we in a rush, Mummy?” and he means, Are you going to try and say goodbye to me at the door instead of taking an extra two minutes to escort me to the room?
I rush on the school run because of parking and because everyone else is frantic and because I drop the children in two different places within ten minutes. Today, though, I decided we’d just be late. I probably still said “Come on, we’re late”, a few times, because the children have no concept of time. But I took time to chat to the teacher, to try and help another mother with a clingy child who was also trying to drop at the door and run, (she has an excuse, though, as she goes to a proper job, not just home to play with words).
I wrote my daughter a star (a note on the board about something they’ve done at home that you’re proud of.) I let myself be ten minutes late for preschool. I took my son to the toilet on request even though I knew it was his way of making me stay longer. I had to leave, then, when he started crying, because I know delay prolongs the pain. But I left calmly, blowing him a kiss and a smile.
With tea and mince pie to hand, I penned my post leisurely, and ordered some Christmas gifts, trying not to feel guilty at taking half an hour off work to do so. I made pasta for lunch and emptied the dishwasher. I ignored the dirty floor and read my book. I wrote tomorrow’s installment, because I have my son on Tuesdays, and checked for comments on my guest post. Calmly.
As I write this, I am walking the dog with time to spare. Walking slowly in the sunshine instead of haring round in a state, knowing I have to get the kids in ten minutes. It feels great.
I’m not even sure I’ve achieved all that much less than I do on a normal day. I’ve made fewer of cups of tea because I’ve been less stressed. I’ve spent more time reading and less time on Facebook, which must be healthy. Of course it isn’t sustainable, because I live on my nerves. If I take things too easy, I get complacent. And that’s when it all goes to pot.
Still, it was nice to arrive with minutes to spare and be the first Mummy in to pick up my son. It was nice to take a leisurely walk to the school run and agree to take the children to the coffee shop for tea. Of course they whinged and moaned and I lost my tranquility within about ten minutes. Hey, I’m only human!
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
The fireworks were over. It was the first display Claire had watched from down by the shore and her eyes and mind reeled from the spectacle. Standing beneath the waves of light, the endless showers of sparks, had been like standing inside the universe.
Conor had his arms around her as they faced the sea. When the penultimate lights had parachuted down to ignite on the water, she had gasped like a child, and Conor had chuckled and kissed her cheek.
Now, aside from the mingling tourists shuffling around them, all was still. They stood motionless for a long moment, neither wanting to break the spell. Then Claire straightened, and inhaled deeply.
“I have to get going in the morning.” Her voice didn’t sound like hers, and she cleared her throat. Aiming for a playful tone, she continued, “I have this report that needs finishing, you see. My boss wants it done in a few weeks and I don’t want to let him down.”
Conor tightened his arms around her, but didn’t speak. They simply existed; listening to the babbling crowds slowly making their way home.
The bay stretched before them, black as a cave without the lights of the fireworks sizzling on the water. A cavernous space pulling at Claire like an unknown future. She dropped her head back against Conor’s shoulder and sighed.
As if hearing her unspoken thoughts, Conor breathed in through his nose before saying softly. “You’re not coming to work for me, are you? When the report is done.” It was a statement and his tone sounded neutral, business-like. It made her stomach clench.
She waited for him to continue: to beg and plead, or reason, or demand. But he stood motionless, apart from one hand which stroked rhythmically at her arm as he held her tight.
“No,” she said eventually into the dark. “Probably not.”
As she said the words aloud, she knew they were the burden she’d been carrying for weeks. Even without the events of the last twenty-four hours, she knew she couldn’t work for Conor. Couldn’t come and live in the place he loved so much. She tried to frame a reason in her mind, one that could possibly contain sufficient explanation for her desertion.
“I need to do something for me. This isn’t my place. This isn’t my dream.”
“What is your dream?” There was a hint of longing in Conor’s voice, but no accusation. She stroked his hand in gratitude and then sighed again. The exhalation felt like a dessert wind, blowing from the depths of her soul, to wander lost on the sea breeze.
Her reply dropped into the darkness like a stone.
“I have no idea.”
“Do you have to go now? You could stay another night. There isn’t much to do today. We could go somewhere, have lunch.”
Claire did up her jeans and sat back on the bed, looking over to where Conor sat, naked, against the headboard. Outside the window, the sun was high in the sky. She had no idea what time it was, but her growling tummy said lunch was definitely an idea.
It felt wrong, running away like this. She didn’t know where the urge came from; she just knew she wanted to be on the road. Her time with Conor had been magical. They’d talked and made love into the early morning, falling asleep as the first rays of the sun painted the sky in stripes of peach and amber.
She reached down for her t-shirt and pulled it over her head, concealing the tears in her eyes. Swallowing against the hard knot in her throat, she stood up and walked round to his side of the bed. She sat on the mattress next to him and ran her fingers through his haystack hair and down his cheek, where stubble prickled like cut wheat.
“Today, tomorrow, does it make much difference? It’s easier this way.” Her words lacked conviction.
Conor reached up and cupped her face, pulling her down and kissing her hard. When they finally broke for air, his eyes were red.
“Of course it makes a difference. I’m not asking you to stay forever, just for lunch. You make it sound like we’ll never see each other again.”
It was on Claire’s lips to say, we won’t. Was that what she wanted? To avoid crossing the event horizon and getting sucked into a black hole she couldn’t escape from. Would it be so bad to live in this sleepy town and work for a man she cared for? Wasn’t that a dream, of sorts?
Conflicting desires tugged at her until she was ready to scream. Restraining herself against the urge to run, Claire stood slowly and watched Conor, trying to read his expression. He looked hurt, and then resigned, and then something else she couldn’t quite place. A steady resolve crept into his eyes.
Throwing back the covers, he stood and faced her. The sight of him without a stitch on did funny things to her insides, shaking her resolution. Judging by the playful smile on Conor’s lips, that had been his intention.
Claire laughed and ran her hand down his chest. “Tempting. Very tempting.”
As if he had proved his point, Conor turned and pulled on his jeans. Grabbing a clean t-shirt from a drawer, he turned back and grinned. “Just lunch. My treat. And then you can leave with my blessing. Provided you agree to let me come visit you occasionally. And after the report is finished? Well, we can just figure that out when we get there.”
Grateful for his understanding, Claire gave a swift nod and walked out the bedroom, before she ran out of reasons to leave.