Each day a few blog posts shuffle through my mind, some fully formed, some in fragments of ideas, phrases, images. None of them, as you’ve probably noticed have made it onto the blog.
Time. Time is elusive. Time by myself is elusive. Slips through my fingers like a fish sliding back into the river, iridescent and flashing silver, ephemeral and taunting , like my dreams of creating something tangible..like a book or a painting.
Yesterday I drove down the A38 from Exeter to south Devon with one sleeping child in the back. Just one….that took some organisation. I realised that it was the most relaxing thing I had done for a week, apart from actually sleeping myself. I could think, sing, plan the weeks menu and activities, look around, (in a limited way obviously given that I was travelling at 70 miles an hour) but mostly think, or not think as the fancy took me. What freedom!
Last night I read a lovely blog post, where the writer is struggling at home to get some food in the oven with a baby and toddler, hanging with gritted teeth until her partner arrives to help. He calls, to say he is stuck in traffic, and will be an hour late. She starts to fantasize about being stuck in traffic, which I know could sound a little extreme, but I can totally relate, and also feel astounded that sitting in traffic has become a relaxing activity. I told someone without young kids about this and she looked blank. I would have, before kids!!
The desperate need to have time that is free and formless, fluid and flexible to wrap around me like a soft blanket or shake into little shiny crystals that fall around me like diamonds, to shout in, whisper in, to eat when I like in, to not eat in…Time to go to the loo alone in, to have a cup of tea without having it joggled over me, or interrupted by a fight, an accident, tiny arms clamped around my neck and a soft writhing body squirming on my lap.
We’re trying to renovate a house. A wrecked bungalow with walls covered in greasy, mouldy, nicotine stained wallpaper, no toilet, or kitchen and a garden full of brambles. Hugh is working on average six days a week on the river canoeing and I am with the four children, based between a one bedroom flat in the city centre and a yurt in the back garden of the wrecked bungalow. There’s not really room for all of us in any of these places. I have around an hour and a half a day of Finch’s nap time to steam mouldy greasy, nicotine stained wallpaper of the walls with no concern about him having accident (he’s potty training) or running onto the street, or falling down the steep outside steps or ‘nanging ‘ himself with a crowbar, hammer, drill or angle grinder. Often during the nap, other things happen, like necessary phone calls to pay bills for example, or urgent emails that just cannot wait, or refereeing a fight between older children who know I am now free to intervene, or hell, even having a cup of tea without the joggling squirming issues. Or obviously, going to the loo alone.
I don’t really want to do any of these things. Apart from the loo and the tea obviously.
But I can’t write or paint with everyone else around, and bedtimes seem to have slipped to 10.30..yes really. 10 .30. Which is actually my bedtime. THEY JUST WON’T GO TO SLEEP EARLIER, despite calm cups of warm rice milk with honey and cinnamon, calm stories and chats, cuddles, herbal teas….sedation..no just kidding. But really. And Finch wakes early. There are no windows of time. No early morning meditation slots before everyone arises. No serene yoga stretches and writing sessions late evening. No stretches of time to make coffee, well barley cup I mean and waft around with my paintbrush creating a new painting for my exhibition in autumn. Yes autumn..how did that happen? We weren’t renovating when I organised that one.
The thing is I have stopped expecting it now. Time I mean. Expectation can be a very troublesome concept. If I wake up expecting to be able to write, I will probably end up cross resentful and hard done by. If I wake up with no expectation of anything but living in each moment as well and lovingly as I can, then I’m more likely to notice the way Finch’s hair curls in little blond loops on the back of his head or how Tansy slipped off to a neighbour who had a headache and picked her mint leaves and rose petals to make a tea, or how Leo would actually really like a cuddle and a story.
I have some unexpected time today, which is how I am able to write this, so I came to the library…that oasis of calm and studious quiet. In a twisted turn of events, my visit coincides with a rambunctuous , no actually two, sessions of ‘Bounce and Rhyme for Toddlers’ Hurray! Two hours away from my toddler and I am surrounded by bouncing singing toddlers and the beautiful bell like tones of the librarian leading the session. It’s HIckory dickory dock now. Great.
A couple of weeks ago, things came to a head. I was SO full of children I stopped being able to enjoy them. Tansy and Leo have developed the unusual pastime of counting exhaust pipes. I’m not sure how it started but it has now become the travelling game of choice, superseded only by Animal Vegetable Mineral. A car with four exhaust pipes even gets me going now. The thing is I stopped being able to appreciate the exhaust pipe thing. We were walking back from the library and one of my children was placing a foot in front of the pushchair wheel every five seconds or so, alternating with putting a foot on the brake..behaviour that is usually a sign that maternal attention is deficient. The whole pushchair obstruction thing was combined in a slightly lethal way with constant chattering about exhaust pipes. And an expectation of my eager participation. If I remember I was also desperate for a wee, a cup of tea, to get a cranky toddler home etc. etc. You get the picture. I just couldn’t listen to a moment more. I was bored bored bored with everything. Not just the exhaust pipes but my whole dull life of minutiae and endless pulses and vegetables and potties and details about Lego cars and plumbing in toilets and steel reinforcement in the roof…(I’m back to the renovation now…)
I just didn’t want to be alert and on duty anymore. Constant maternal motion, a whirlwind of scooping and saving and mollifying, pacifying, coping, soothing placating, cooking, wiping chopping stirring, . I was simply not interested. I pushed the pushchair decisively, but not painfully, over the obstructive foot and marched home in silence.
Well, by another strange and this time blissful twist of fate…two days after that I was alone at a festival…(apart from Fred, who is pretty self sufficient).
I cannot tell you how this was. Two days and THREE nights to do WHAT I wanted, WHEN I wanted. Really. Sleep, sit in a sauna, eat, hangout in cafes drinking chai, going to as many inspirational workshops/dance events as I wanted. It was sunny. Lots of my friends were there. I didn’t cook once. It was beyond paradise. I had actually forgotten what it was like to have this much freedom and time to myself. Usually I might have a chunk of say three hours in which to achieve something creative, shop for groceries, take some exercise and rest and I end up feeling completely stressed and torn in two, or four!
Which brings me back to the wrecked bungalow on the edge of a city.
School. Tansy and Leo now have places at a free Steiner school for September. I have located some very local lovely childcare for a short time each week for Finch. Freddie will be at art college.
In September I will have a little space, admittedly with a house still to renovate and an exhibition looming, but space nonetheless.
I feel sad at the big change for Tansy and Leo who will no doubt undergo the biggest adjustment to their new life, but there will be benefits as well as losses for them.
Hopefully their mother will have enough space to nurture herself so that she can enjoy them for the sparkling ,unique and lovely people they are, and she will be able to engage in conversations about exhaust pipes whenever required.