If I were to characterise my occupation right now, I’d say I was striving to make a ‘portfolio career’ work. By that I mean I do a bit of everything. I write, I clean the house. I write, I have coffee with my friends. I write, I manage the smallness and the greatness of family, both up close and extended. This is the part that sucks time like nothing else. My writing is invariably interrupted, and so as payback, it interrupts me, forming paragraphs as I try to drift off to sleep, or as I am doing a yoga class. I tell myself there will be time to properly focus, at some point in the future, when things ‘calm down’. I think of my Masters degree, and of the high hopes I had for after graduation, and as I type this, graduation was nearly two years ago. Insert shocked emoji face. Owing to my deliberate efforts not to beat myself up, I skip over this, as after all, who said the measure of success was world domination? Slow and steady? The eco book was a start…
There used to be a need to write a round-up of the week here, as a breezy, chatty bulletin. As if providing a public service. Blog being short for ‘web log’; the diarist in me would count the days between posts. Feed the appetite of your readers. But times have changed, and now we have insta stories for that. I shy away, as the need for privacy wraps around me. A highly curated front feels false, and I note that my contemporaries either post all the time, or not at all.
I am working on a project that is taking me through a creative process ranging from excitement, to fear, and back again. I muse whether it is good enough, whether I am good enough. My daughter earnestly looks back at me, and says ‘you must do your best’, and I feel like I have might have taught her well. There’s the slightest hint of spring and when I run in the mornings, the chill is gone, in favour of a tepid breeze, and there are green buds on trees. This makes me happy. I point this out to my son as we drive, and he looks up from his phone.
Meanwhile, I receive a terse, unsolicited email from a reader. The intimation being that I am narrow-minded. It strikes me that writing any sort of social commentary now is fraught with the accusation of not having a wide enough point of reference. Should I caveat every possible opinion, and state every possible viewpoint? Quite dull to do so. A bit like taking broad-spectrum antibiotics. You smother the good bugs and the bad bugs too. And maybe you never needed the meds in the first place. I can’t extrapolate the metaphor any further.
I buy a leopard print dress online, because, y’know, that’s what (narrow-minded) women like me do.
My daughter’s friends, the teenage girls, come round and sit at my table. I serve them vegetables (always) and they battle through plates of butternut squash, broccoli and avocado with a lime and tahini dressing. They silently wonder where the fish fingers have gone? We talk about society, and life, university, and whether they should cut their lustrous long hair short. I find myself cautioning against doing so, as all haircutting is, generally speaking – not wanting to derail the objectors here – a way to combat boredom. I’d apply the same logic to getting tattoos, which I become obsessed with, periodically. We discuss stress, and exams, and whether the line up at Glastonbury is going to be any good. I imagine myself this June, jumping, my middle-aged hands in the air, wellies sticking in the Somerset mud, screaming ‘Mr Brightside’ like it’s 2003.
When I speak to other women my age, they talk a lot about what they want and how they can’t have it, and I wonder if this is just the stage we are at? Experience tells me nothing comes easy, and right now, there isn’t time to get important stuff done. Everything feels like an effort, and I can think of a million reasons not to try. But there’s an ambition and a tenacity and we all soldier on with the perpetual list of things that need doing (‘I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier’). There’s a steeliness to this ambition, and I see as I get older, the less I need to say it out loud. Is this the midlife wisdom that they speak of? When you know, you know. It’s an inner knowledge; a confidence I suppose, that we are all playing a long game and if not now, then later. I write, I wait.