Thursday, 13 August 2015

Growing for her


Nature has a way of finding its feet, making the best of every petal, every vein inside each leaf. It knows its space, knows the potential of its boundary, what it can climb to. It also knows its colour, and when to fade; what is good, its inherent beauty.

Above my head hundreds of swallows float like torn paper suspended on mobiles. On the ground, in the borders, the cat mint is wild, precocious, growing however and wherever it pleases while the lavender stands tall and sober, royal guard in purple bearskin caps. White petunias wrestle in terracotta pots around the garden perimeter like satellite dishes transmitting scent to those creatures that hover and buzz or in the early evening light, beacons, flares sent from sinking ships. And the vine. It creeps curious over and through the trellis like a child discovering a new den.

Nature. It knows how to grow, how to respond.  

I'm trying to do the same, to do the best in the long term. For her.

I tried. I did. Every Sunday evening I cut the pills into halves and quarters, a lowered dosage for the coming week, their powdery residue on the duvet, on top of the drawers, but the hormones continued to yank my chain, make life difficult, the weed that persisted and wouldn't go away. At first, it felt good. I felt calm, cleared, the quality and depth of sleep improved, my senses sharpened on the school run, listening to her stories about so-and-so who'd received a continuous charge of red cards and made to sit on the thinking spot nine times that day. Really? Blimey...

It was short-lived, though. I became tired, nay exhausted, the days long and indiscriminate. Was I coming down with something? Limbs soaked in chronic fatigue? It was a struggle to wash the clothes, make the bed, roll out the yoga mat and force myself into a downward dog. This wasn't right. And I let her watch more TV, boiled up pasta again, forgetting her homework until it was too late. And then the belligerent mood swings, the impossible PMS, and the blood that came in shortened cycles of twenty-one days or less.

The doctor said, 'I have lots of patients who've been on anti-depressants for a long time - go back to your usual dose and try again in six months time.' I said this wasn't to do with depression anymore, I'm not depressed, it was my hormones, the pills masking an over-flow of perimenopausal symptoms. 'Oh,' she said, 'how old are you, and are you still menstruating?' I'm forty-four, and yes, I am. 'Well you're not menopausal then - we don't really have a name for the lead up to the menopause.' Yes you do, I thought, it's called the perimenopause - Google it. And to think this female GP was also embedded in her middling years - didn't she know anything about this stuff? 'Really, you'll be fine on the pills,' she continued to reassure.

I've been taking them for three years. For the post-birth trauma, for the resulting post-natal illness. Now it would seem I'm swallowing back the tablets for the rest of my forties and early fifties, but I've thought about it, and I don't mind, not as resigned as I thought I might be. By comparison these pills are the champagne alternative to living as a foul-tempered harpy, to enduring debilitating PMS, to battling through the best years of my life through hormonal adversity - just look how brave I am. Why put myself through any of this? I don't want to wear the medal of martyrdom.

If a plant is dying, you feed it water or show its face to the sun. Perhaps you place protective netting over its withering leaves or tie firm bamboo to it's stem. You give nature what it needs to flourish, to grow wild like the cat mint in the borders. These little white pills are my sun and water and fertile soil. Maybe not for long, but for the time being they'll do. I need me at my best, my daughter needs me at my best, or good enough, as life intended. I look out again at my garden. The bright white petunias. The dance of a butterfly's shadow. The unhindered vine that curls and secures itself. The lavender that barks its orders at the bees. Nature needs her props or she wouldn't exist. And so too, I need mine.    
  

Monday, 3 August 2015

So Far...



Motherhood. I haven't thought about it for a while. Have stopped observing myself going about the daily routine. I haven't clocked off though, still there amid the breakfast making, the tooth brushing, the reading, the spelling, the tucking in of the duvet at the end of the day. I am still very much her mummy; it's just I haven't asked myself how I'm doing in this job - the decliner of wants, the administrator of can't haves, the peddler of pleases and thank yous - for many, many months. I can only guess I'm doing okay, I guess.

And now the summer holidays. Play dates. Summer camp. Crafting anxiety (on my part). I took her to the hospital the other day. Glue ear. In the right one. She's had it for over a twelve months now, and I've lost count the times I've had to slug gloopy yellow antibiotics down her throat. She had a hearing test. The specialist deemed her hearing fine, although he agreed her canal looked dull. So there won't be any grommets yet, and instead we will have to battle on with pain killers and antibiotics every time her ear becomes infected which seems to happen at regular intervals of six to eight weeks. In the mean time, she's started pulling faces, scrunching her face as if about to sneeze, or tasted bitter lemon, to get, as she says, the gunk out. The specialist said she's trying to pop the pressure. Apparently research suggests blowing up a balloon with a nostril, and with a special nasal piece, is good for glue ear. Handy - we have a glut of bright water balloons stashed under the sink...

I have lived life internally this year. Not introspection as such, more a bombardment of characters and narratives and finely-crafted sentences. The novel has been the entire focus which in one way is good. I have shut my self away, got on with it, completed a third draft, and in the process raised £350 for The Birth Trauma Association. I am going to The Writers Festival for the second time this September in York. Two years ago I only had thirty thousand words to my name, this year I go with a more completed product, and maybe I will feel more confident in my one-to-ones with agents. Afterwards, a full and proper edit, further polishing, and then it will be as complete as it can be; I may even have a finished novel by the end of this year. A couple of weekends ago, in a gauzy field at the Latitude Festival, I was struck down by an idea for a new story, another novel sized adventure. The idea came from the sparks of another idea I'd had - a dystopian that needs a lot more work and research. This new story came complete, the characters fully formed, and I'm itching to get started. It's set in the Lake District (any excuse for a trip to one of my favourite places) and is another coming of age story. I love coming of age stories as there are no full stops, life a continuum, a cloud that puffs and flattens and dissolves at the end.

Motherhood. No, I haven't thought about it much at all. As I write this, there are mothers I know who are struggling with their daughter's diabetes, or in unparallelled shock their child has gone. I feel blessed, lucky for the luxury of not having so many worries about her. I only have the one girl. It's easier with one, especially now she's through reception, all dancing, all swimming, reading and writing. Sometimes I feel a fraud, that I'm not in the same league as those mums who are harvesting two or more, or those who are battling on their own with little or no support. Yes, by comparison, I have it easy, have time to roll out the yoga mat or have a mandala inked on the top of my foot, or my hair chopped every four weeks and highlights painted through. I am in a privileged position. I am time rich, a fortunate woman. And that is why I know I must get back to work, live a life in the external, to observe the everyday as well as the gallivanting images inside my head.

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