Last night I lay awake listening to the wind rip up my garden. Or rather, blow all the plastic shit around outside. I secretly hoped a very localised cyclone would suck up the broken, toxic-coloured toys that litter our overgrown grass. And I couldn’t sleep, and that made me angry and panicked. Which meant I couldn’t sleep.
I was laying in my son’s bed – ornamental, of course, since he spends every night in my bed to stop me sleeping. I was laying in the dark, waiting for one of them to wake up (in my bed, in the other room) and need me. And I was thinking about how one day I’ll die, and how I really wanted to cuddle them but don’t want to wake up angry another morning from this hideous, relentless, endless slumber deficit.
Sometimes I get angry because I’ve had zero sleep, and sometimes its because my kids remind me of stuff. Stuff I’d rather forget, or hadn’t realised until they existed. Stuff like I’ll die one day, that until that day I’ll absolutely never exist responsibility-free, and that my shot at being young and reckless is over. My mojo is over.
Of course I don’t think like this most of the time, but sometimes it helps to be honest about the thoughts that come and go at times, silent and dark times like these. Or loud times, loud and can’t-think crazy times like when no one is listening and all I can think of is existentialism. They remind me that I’ll decay, that I am already decaying – that the times I thought would totally last forever…totally won’t, and didn’t.
And what’s to come stares me so hard in the face.
When I look at them, my children, they remind me of how I’ll never be able to totally make things okay. I won’t be able to convince them not to develop eating disorders, abuse drugs, endanger their lives in any manner of ways that seem like the cool, the right or the only way at the time. There’s the realisation that I won’t be able to stop them from making the same mistakes I have. No amount of mummy saying so will stop them experimenting, hating themselves at times, wishing they were someone other than who they are and won’t make them know that they’ve always been perfect the way they are. And I’ll have to watch this happen.
There are things I’ll never be able to tell them, things I won’t want them to know and that they’ll find out anyway, eventually. There’ll be nowhere to hide me, to keep back that part of myself I want to retain, in the end it’ll be most of me they’ll know, and a smattering of enigma – of pre-them-me. And then I’ll get old and/or die and they’ll find my teenage journals and the true extent of my hideous self-centredness will be exposed to the daylight.
They remind me that this flesh will expire. And that perhaps before that happens, I’ll become irrelevant, and every vessel in which I enthusiastically poured my self-worth as a younger person will start to leak, to seep and spill - mind, body, maybe spirit. Spirit will probably go too.
They remind me that almost no time at all has passed since I was them, and that the things that we need to be different for them growing up just won’t be different. Probably won’t. Nothing changes that needs to change. I will change and evanesce and nothing will have changed, I won’t be able to have made it different for them. They remind me that I will become a footnote in their story, and they are everything to me.I think I stole that metaphor from Fall Out Boy. And that they are just footnotes in the stories of others, and how could that be so when they are literally the entire fucking world?
They might mean nothing to someone else, less than nothing. And I’ll never know what is worse because if I don’t know what is worse already, by 32, then I’ll surely never know.
And all I want is one night alone, perhaps to just be silent and figure it all out. But there is nothing to work out, nothing of this can be seen when all is calm and I have time to think. At such times it seems flowery and indulgent.
And yet at times I rage, silently, over nothing they’ve done and everything that’s swimming inside of me that I’m not grown up enough to handle at the same time as looking at them and meeting them face to face. Looking into their eyes. So I try to keep half for myself, just keep a bit back in reserve, some of me.
And then I lay down in warm, wet grass in my memory and imagine how they’d play this moment. How they’d soak in the dew, not curse how the body will shiver in an hour,when the moment is over and only chilly damp is left. There is nothing beyond this moment to them, and part of me feels like I am them in their childishness, and yet another – perhaps the greater – is so burdened by experience and stains of experimentation and directional living that I can never return to them, we can’t be each other, and so there’s a war in that moment.
I’ll be the reason they don’t do this or that. The reason they move across the country or world to work or study, or stay close to home. Neither of those need be good or bad, but surely I’ll take it personally because by that time, such will be my job. Not only will I die but they’ll have to watch my decline, and I won’t be able to protect them from that and at that time I won’t be able to go back and erase the time I yelled at them for something dumb, some mistake they made, something that seemed huge to me but to anyone else is just what kids do.
“You can’t call me beautiful”, my son tells me. Oh, but I can and I must – a beautiful reminder that I’ve touched the start of life and will therefor touch the end, and I can’t stop it all happening to you like this either.
And it’s not a sadness, but a contented resignation that I am here, I did this.