Life, Love, and Looking for the Positive (with Bon Jovi)

The view from my 'office' this morning

The view from my ‘office’ this morning

Reading the latest post from The Belle Jar yesterday, and from Miss Fanny P this morning, about how hard it is reconciling being a Mum with being a person, I couldn’t help but pour out a long heartfelt reply of agreement.

I spent the entire summer holiday sleeping in defence against being in a situation I couldn’t change, even though it was a situation of my choosing.

This was my comment on Miss Fanny P’s blog:

“Ah, I can so relate. I spent most of the school holidays ‘napping’ and I thought it was a virus. Only when it went on for two months did I realise it was my body’s way of escaping an unwanted but unavoidable situation.

There was a great post on The Belle Jar yesterday about losing self when you become ‘Mummy’. It’s so true. We make our choices but from a really limited set of options. Hubbie was telling me this weekend that he read some of my old work notes and realised how very good I used to be at my job and it made me so sad, because even though I didn’t quit to become a mum (rather to be an artist, which didn’t work out) I lost all ability to go back as soon as the children got used to having me at home.

If you’re a working mum from the beginning, fine, because that’s the child’s normal. But to take kids at 4 and 5 and say, ‘Mummy’s going to leave you with a childminder at 8am and pick you up at 6pm’, that doesn’t feel fair. So when hubbie says I could go back, start at the bottom rung because of my seven years out (yay!) and the kids will adapt, that doesn’t really feel like a choice.

But I know in my head how lucky I am, and that most working mums wish they could drop their kids at school and go write novels in the coffee shop (because they tell me all the time, like working 30 hours a week to make £20 a month is so great). I yearn to be Amanda Martin, instead of Mummy. Of course I’d feel different if my books actually sold, but still I feel I’m making the best of the crappy options rather than steering my own craft in the river of life. And so, when despair takes hold, I sleep. And sleep. And sleep.”

"There's no going back on the highway of life" Bon Jovi

“There’s no going back on the highway of life” Bon Jovi

I meant every word, at 9am this morning, having survived the weekend with chunks of time hiding in bed. But as I left the coffee shop in the sunshine, and walked through shadow-patterned pavements and a summer scented churchyard, stopping to order a balloon for my son’s birthday, I realised the feelings were fading. I smiled, with sun on my face and a blue sky behind the trees above.

Even driving to my Gyn appointment (because that’s what every woman wants on her first day of term-time freedom) listening to Bon Jovi, I realised I’m not unhappy with my lot. Frustrated, yes. Struggling, definitely. But not unhappy. I did make my choices, possibly for the first time. For the first time life didn’t dictate my path, I did.

I’ve been going through my first ever novel this week, with a view to editing it for my next release. Oh my. It’s not a novel it’s a bad biography. My ‘character’ is just me. All her opinions are mine, and boy is she miserable. I wrote the novel between the birth of my first child and my second (and lord I hope it gets better, or it’ll need more than a complete rewrite, it’ll need a miracle!)

I read this section this morning (it’s all this bad, but it just shows how far I’ve come as a writer, that’s what I tell myself).

“That sense of belonging she had assumed she’d find at university continued to elude her. So she had thrown herself into her studies, determined at least to graduate with a high grade and get the perfect job, whatever that was. She had never been clear about that point – still wasn’t really. An accidental career, that’s what her CV should say. She admired friends who had a passion, “I want to be a …” fill in blank. It didn’t matter, Doctor, Dentist, Film Producer, Bin Man. It didn’t matter what someone’s passion was, just that they had one. Hers had been to have a family, to belong somewhere: she had paid a steep price for that knowledge.”

Oh yes, that’s me. It goes on to describe my final year at uni, when my boyfriend snogged someone else on NYE and how I wandered in a fog of despair for months until I suddenly realised I had six weeks to write my dissertation and save my degree. The despair hadn’t been losing the bloke (although I thought so at the time. In hindsight it was a lucky escape), it was losing a vision for the future.

Up until then I’d followed the system. GCSEs, A Levels, University. But I didn’t know what to do once I had to make my own choices. I ended up taking the first job I got, survived four years of mega-stress, broke down and ran away to New Zealand.

I could go on, but really my life summarises into trying to find love, a place to belong and a job where I felt useful and appreciated.

"One man's ceiling's another man's sky" Bon Jovi

“One man’s ceiling’s another man’s sky” Bon Jovi

Fast forward a decade or two and I have a gorgeous husband who I love, who loves me and treats me well. I have a place I belong and a job where I am (mostly) useful and appreciated. I am Mummy. I fit. I belong. I have an identity. And, much as I hate to admit it, because I feel it’s only using a tenth of my brain, I’m actually quite good at it.

And I chose it. I wanted babies. They weren’t an accident, they were a choice. Okay I didn’t have a scooby what being a parent meant or how ill-equipped I was to be one, but I’m doing okay.

I’m doing everything I wanted to do. I’m dropping my kids off at school, I’m writing novels and using my creativity. Three days out of seven I have hours of freedom. Right now (having had my gyn appointment and tried to sell a book to the nurse who has known me since I was nine) my ‘office’ is a parked car on a hillside (because the neighbours have builders in!), with a chill autumn wind blowing through the open windows, a clear blue sky overhead and Bon Jovi on the stereo singing a bunch of optimistic songs full of messages of hope and fight (better still, it’s a CD I somehow never listened to and only found this weekend, so it’s full of new stuff!)

Some Bon Jovi wisdom 😉 –

“We weren’t born to follow”

“Back when we were beautiful, before the world got small, before we knew it all. Back when we were innocent, I wonder where it went, let’s go back and find it”.

“Can I be happy now? Can I let my breath out? Let me believe, I’m building a dream, don’t try to drag me down.” Bon Jovi

A decade ago I would have stared at the blue sky out the tinted office windows, before going to some stupid meeting where actually I was mostly unappreciated. In the evening I would have hooked up for a beer with an ex who definitely didn’t appreciate me.

Then I signed up to UDate, met hubbie, and the rest, as they say, is history.

When I’m struggling with my lack of choices, I have to pause and remember how fortunate I am and that it’s all about context. I jokingly said to Miss Fanny P that my life will start when the children leave home and I can set up my Writer’s Retreat in the Welsh hills. But my life is now, I just have to look for it.

“Home is where you are and where I am” (Bon Jovi)

Lately Facebook has become my therapy, strange as that sounds. Between the positivity posts and the Humans of New York UN world tour (seriously, subscribe, it will change your life) I am strangely optimistic. I just need silence and time away from the children’s tantrums and histrionics to remember! 😉

As Bon Jovi says, “You’ve got to learn to love the world you’re living in”

(All lyrics from The Circle album)

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Monday and Looking For Meaning

Fun at the farm

Fun at the farm

Getting out of bed this morning felt like climbing Ben Nevis (a not particularly happy experience for me, nearly a decade ago, when attempting the three peak challenge.) I had a fantastic family weekend, with no where we had to be and not too much rain. I had a marvellous night out with the girls on Friday, actually feeling part of the conversion for possibly the first time. Then hubbie and I pottered around, got the chores done and had a Chinese with my parents on Saturday, and spent a lovely day taking the children to the farm and catching a 1965 London Bus to the local steam railway on Sunday.

But this morning life still seems so hard. I ache all over, despite spending a chunk of the weekend in bed. Partly my new addiction to the iPad game Angry Birds Go is to blame. Hubbie is addicted and the children now love it too, so in an altruistic spirit, I put it on my iPad and worked through some levels so the kids wouldn’t squabble over hubbie’s version.

And now I’m hooked. It’s my way of being able to watch Game of Thrones, another new addiction in our house, but much too full of sex, gore and brutality for me to watch without a metaphorical cushion to hide the screen when necessary. But the game involves steering by tilting the iPad and I think it’s to blame for my stiff shoulders and aching back. And I suspect Game of Thrones is responsible for my bad dreams!

Joking aside, I do find it hard to find meaning in life at the moment. I read a terrible, moving, post on the Belle Jar blog recently, When Getting Better Is No Longer An Option, where the author described a life battling depression and suicidal thoughts. I can relate, although my depression is being controlled through diet and medication. I don’t actively want to end my own life but these days the future is a void of emptiness without reason or purpose. I’ve reached the top of the mountain, the view is uninspiring, and I can’t see the point in all the pain of climbing back down.

Our ride

Our ride

One of the ways I’ve sought to feel connected to life is by supporting causes, particularly environmental ones, or through championing things on social media. I love signing online petitions and hearing they made a difference, or contributing to worthwhile charities. But sometimes you get it wrong.

I shared a post over the weekend that turns out to have been causing a man terrible trouble, including death threats. I didn’t think it through, I just shared and now I see it was irresponsible of me. A friend pointed out the consequences and I immediately deleted my shared post, but it’s left me feeling awful. The problem with social media is there’s always a deeper story, a bigger picture, and I don’t always take the time to find out what it is. And now my urge to crawl back under the duvet is greater than ever.

But I won’t. I will make packed lunches, get the children to school, go to the supermarket, try not to load Angry Birds Go. I will edit Class Act and walk the dog. I might take an hour to nap or watch Homes Under the Hammer. I will keep looking for a reason to get up every day, to keep climbing. But, oh my, it’s hard.

(Sorry for a less than cheery post for a Monday. But, maybe if you’re also having a bad day, you won’t feel so alone! I also forgot the packed lunch and had to do a 12 mile round-trip to take it in to school, because I was so busy writing, so there’s a lesson for me to focus on what’s important and quit moaning!)