I’ve been away. Not in the relaxed, slightly smug, ‘mid-winter escape to the Pacific’ kind of way I see slapped all over my FB feed – we all hate you sun-seekers just a smidge, by the way – nothing so glamorous or in the least bit warming. I’ve been away, not out of choice but due to circumstance. I lost myself again. Not quite so deeply into the darkness as last year, but lost nonetheless. Away.
I’m not ready to write about being lost yet. Not quite. I will one day, when the darkness doesn’t loom so closely. When I don’t have to fight feeling like depression is a blight, a weakness, a reason to be disappointed in myself.
I’d rather write about being found. About finding my way back.
I’m sure Chekov had no idea his instruction, (intended to spur writers on to greater depths of description, the ultimate in ‘show don’t tell’), could twist and swirl and be reimagined as a prayer: Find me. Bring me back. Help me out of the darkness and into the light, bit by bit, a small glimmer of joy at a time. Please, show me a glint of light.
I bear resemblance to his glass shard some days still; fragile, sharp, all acute angles and jagged edges, a translucent sliver hinting at a whole. Broken.
Recently though, there have been glints in the darkness. Light reflecting off my brokenness and warming the glass.
Despite my loss of self being linked to motherhood – guilt blossoming and flourishing at my lack of fulfilment, the ugliness of feeling less-than, the sometimes paralysing fear I’m screwing this whole thing up and my little ones with it – it is my children who often shine the light. It is my children who have first answered my prayer and begun to lead me back.
The first glint after a long time with no moon or stars last year came on the trampoline. At nearly three, being bounced was one of Violet’s favourite things, being caught and tickled another. It was exhausting going through the motions of that bounce and tickle routine. Shattering. But on this afternoon, I caught her giggles. We bounced and rolled and did gymnastics and every time I tickled her, her laughter got more explosive and infectious. And I laughed. Properly and genuinely. For the first time in I don’t remember how long. I looked up and saw my husband smiling as he watched us through a bedroom window and was suddenly aware of how beautiful our front garden was on that spring afternoon and I thought to myself, ‘Oh, this is happiness. I’m feeling happiness.’
And while it didn’t last very long, as is the nature of glints, it was such a relief to know I was still capable of feeling something so simple and unrestrained and positive. With it came hope, and that hope sustained me last time and this, while I waited for more light to shine.
This time, the first glint was actually a two-for-one deal. One from laughter and one from realising I didn’t care a jot what anyone thought about my parenting right at that moment.
Grace and Violet were discussing babies, precisely, whether they were worth having or not. Grace long ago decided motherhood was not for her; about 37 seconds after I told her how her baby brother was going to make his way into the world she declared her intention to remain childless forever. Violet however, despite her sister’s insistence that having babies is painful, loves ‘babies more than anything in the world’ and plans on needing a mini-van to cart hers around. It was at this declaration of love, standing next to the pasta sauce with our shopping trolley, Grace decided she needed to specify for Violet exactly why having a baby hurts so much. I was up the aisle a bit, so ‘Babies come out your bottom, don’t they Mum?’ was shouted at a volume that ensured the attention of not only I, but a number of customers doing their weekly shop. One woman snorted; an older man down the way a bit went pink and avoided eye contact as I walked past on my way back to the trolley.
Why I didn’t leave it at that I don’t know, maybe it’s the teacher in me, but in the interests of clarity I confirmed Grace’s statement, with the substitution of ‘vagina’ for ‘bottom’. Triumphant, and loud with it, Grace crowed, ‘See Violet, they come out your gynee!’ The snorter made a choking sound; the pink man was charting a hasty exit to a safer aisle. Violet, meanwhile, was incredulous, scandalised even. Her response echoed through the supermarket, the checkout operators and people in the back office heard her clear as a bell.
‘No. NO. The baby would get gynee in its face!’
There was my glint. I laughed and laughed, and this time it was my laughter that was infectious and my girls and I giggled and gasped for breath, standing there next to the pasta sauce.
That’s how I know I’m not so broken. Wee glints of light guide me out of the darkness. Soon I won’t feel lost at all. I’m on my way back.