Do you ever feel like running away, selling up and out and leaving everything behind? I can’t decide if it would be an adventure or a failure.
It can’t happen either way. The older we get, the more tied down we become. Marriage, kids, schools, jobs, mortgages, friends. Blessings, but sometimes trappings.
I have this vision of me in a new place with a new name being a new person, but I don’t think it works like that. You take yourself with you wherever you go. Isn’t it irritating? Don’t you sometimes want a day off from yourself?
All we can do is continue to self-improve, like DIY for the soul. I hate DIY. I start it and realise I’m a corner cutting, fair-weathered cowboy. I have this list of things I want to reinvent about myself, like Bruce Springsteen ‘I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face’ and that’s just the beginning. I want a Scottish accent and a taste for fine wine and seafood. I want to not grimace if I find a wet slice of tomato has found its way into my sandwich. I want to hate bread. I want to love greens as much as my tortoise does, ripping Cavlo Nero and spring greens apart on my hands and knees.
I want to be able to speak French. I want to rewind time and become a teacher and be really good at it. I want to have never said I liked cleaning when I moved in with the husband. I want to be able to cook amazing meals from the crust of an old parmesan and tinned tuna. I want to write poetry that makes grown men cry and be able to do reverse park with one hand on the steering wheel, first time.
All these things are possible, anything is possible, the problem is me. I lay awake for so many hours at night thinking about my self-improvement that I’m too tired to do anything the next day. Meanwhile the dog isn’t trained to drop the ball and the kids are shaky on times tables and the pantry is a hiding place for ‘things I cannot be bothered to find a proper home for’.
The middle daughter needed a filling, which of course is my fault for letting her have sugar. My punishment was having to watch her be pricked with needles and held down so she could be drilled. I took her home, shell-shocked and traumatised, clutching her face and asking me why, but why?
Later, wrapped up like yetis, we walked to the park where me and the dogs watched her lonely gait round the swings and slides, her smile at having the whole place to herself turning into a wince of pain. Must do better, I told the dogs, then threw his ball into the back of someone’s head.
I’ve just brought one of those plastic sticks that sling tennis balls for miles if you know how to use them. I don’t. It went behind me this morning and into the road. I lunged for the dog, cheeks red with shame, then a car pulled up and a woman shouted at me from her wound down window ‘You stupid b**ch’.
I knew before she told me, that it was a stupid thing to do. My middle one, still off school with toothache, looked aghast and asked, ‘are you okay mummy? Why was she so mean?’ I didn’t know what to tell her. Rottingdean drivers are a unique brand of awful? Being stuck in traffic can make you grumpy? Sometimes people are just horrible and there is nothing we can do about it?
I don’t like the b-word, especially when it comes from a woman to a woman. Somewhere in the #metoo movement we’ve forgotten what women do to one another. We pluck stuffing out with beaky jabs and curly claws and the word bitch dropped like a brick and it hurts.
I wanted to tell the woman I wasn’t a b**ch. I was just stupid. I wanted to remind her I was with an eight-year-old daughter, another membership of the sisterhood, who absorbed everything. I wanted to tell her I was sorry.
I wondered what she would have called me had we been in Victorian times and if it would have hurt as much to be called a ‘cow-handed lubberwort’ or a ‘fopdoodle’?
I didn’t answer her. No middle finger, no slanging match. I just put my hand up in apology and told my daughter that being kind doesn’t mean you are weak. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world.
I told her never to judge someone too quickly or too harshly. Being her mother’s daughter, she listened and nodded, then said ‘I hope the ball hit her in the face mummy.’