And so my children break up from school for another year.
The last few weeks have been…what can I say? Tumultuous.
I have this interest in how humans (by this I mean myself) handle stress; I am always the one who – when someone says they feel overwhelmed or have a dreadful cold – remarks: ‘ahh, you must be stressed’ like some sort of modern-day soothsayer. What do I know? I guess my key observation has been that stress is a constant in my life, even though in the traditional sense I am not under stress (I am not a firefighter or a police woman, I don’t face danger on a daily basis).
I place myself under stress. I don’t really know why I do this, I should probably get reprogrammed but I see that consistently I succumb to the affects of stress. I am a stress head, highly strung, wound tight. I am married to someone who is the direct and polar opposite so I know how different I am. Things that really ought to be pleasurable and life-affirming can even become stressful to me. It’s a curse.
For the last few years, as I have described at length, I have attempted to manage this with life style changes and a-l-h-o-t of soul-searching. It has worked to a degree but still, every now and then I get a physical reminder that I need to chill the f**k out.
This is how it went. In the dark gloomy winter months following Christmas I was holed up writing my book. Life felt like it had much work and little play in it. My husband was away a lot of the time, I was enjoying the new (white) house but often there was an empty space at the table of four. My daughter got a boyfriend; countless demands entailed as she navigated – and still navigates – the waters of young love. My son became disillusioned with his friends, fights ensued, he became withdrawn and sad. I went on writing and cooking and cleaning and driving them around, all the time wondering quite what had shifted in our nirvana. This is how it goes I told myself; life is a series of phases. I spent a lot of time counselling them and thinking about them and shouldering every little set back in a way that frankly, was disproportionate. I get too involved. By the time I realised that it was kinda too late and the stress monkeys had come to rest on my shoulder.
The remedy was to plan lots of summer fun – yes summer would be the salve, this is just a winter thing I told myself, so I poured over the calendar and booked up concerts and events and holidays and proceeded to count down to them. Now it’s July, we are splat in the middle of my summer of fun. Off to Amsterdam at the weekend with my daughter and her buddy – to visit her beloved Godmother. This is all good.
The school term took its toll, we had some uncertainty at the end about my son changing schools (he hasn’t), I finished my novel and endured a long month until I got the feedback from my tutors, like I was on death row. The weight of not knowing whether this creative endeavour was any good, whether the toil had been worth it sat heavy. I found out last week that I did OK; more than OK. I am delighted. They liked it, I passed the first year and I got a distinction! Hurrah, so it turns out I did a good job and I then spent a good few days wondering why other people’s approval is so important to me. This in itself is an indicator of the effects of stress; why not just bloody well enjoy it?!
We went to Glastonbury – first ever time at the biggest of festivals – it was incredible! I could write an essay on the reasons why. The most fun I have had for a long time. And the nicest of people. Plus seeing Adele and Coldplay in one weekend was awe-inspiring.
So now, we have nine weeks of school holidays (yes, nine) and a schedule of events to keep us busy. I can honestly say that I am so tired I feel like I could lie down for a week. But I don’t. There’s stuff to do! People to see! My sister in law from Dubai came to stay with her children so we lived in a communal harmony, two mums, four kids ranging from 15 to 2. It was a reminder of how far we’ve come! Lovely to have her here and it showed me that it takes a village to raise a child.
In amongst this I go through strange, almost maniacal moments of frippery; internet browsing for sandals, lusting over summer dresses. I long for the opportunity to wake to a guaranteed sunny day but alas the British summer is true to form; contrary. The nation is in a spin and I shan’t write about our politics for fear of reprisal, just noting the vitriol directed at my friend Tania when she did is enough to make one’s head spin. The public are testy, volatile, there’s meanness that has set in like weed. This sort of thing makes me sad. People are anxious. And others are triumphant and gloating. It’s a heady mix.
The thing I think about the most is my Florida and my palm trees and the snippets of plans I have to better my novel next year when I return for the second part of my Masters. The future is bright. The toils of parenting will die down and I will return to a state of equilibrium just in time for the winter to set it!
It is just me who goes in these cycles?! I doubt it…