Saturday, 7 February 2009
Unless we are very, very lucky indeed, life occasionally has an element of repetition. In fact let's go completely nuts and admit that there are times when living through Groundhog day would offer more variety than the endless whirl of laundry, school run's, the horror of commuting and the effort it takes to pin a smile on your face as you place a meal on the dinner table you can be sure at least one of your darling family will complain about. Somehow this minor morning dread (for it is morning that we suffer it most) is unrelated to how we truly feel about our lives. Relative happiness is irrelevant because more often than not it is that very female state of exhaustion we should label "Here we go again!", that afflicts us the moment we open up our eyes, (snuggled up as we are in the heat from our bodies, a bed made the Brocante way, and dreams still lingering on our sheets), clouding our view of what we have to face in the next twelve hours and making us momentarily wonder how long it will be before we are allowed to slip back into our Egyptian cotton haven.... But get up we do. Because if we didn't all hell would break loose and though women from across the world would gather at the foot of our bed in silent homage to she who couldn't face the day, the very strings of family life would all too soon soon unravel.Thus, then, it is the weight of responsibility that makes us want to go and live in the wardrobe.(and perhaps tidy it up while we are in there) and it is that alienating sense of "this life isn't about me" that means you wear the kind of face designed to scare little children to serve breakfast to your brood. Housekeeping, marriage, motherhood, life. In the words of a song, nobody said it was easy, but no-one ever said it would be quite so hard... In Ladder of the Years, Anne Tyler's heroine walks away. She simply picks up her bag and walks into a new life, while her family play, oblivious, on the beach. It is that easy. We can walk away and spend a lifetime chasing the kind of romance we can probably find snoring in our own bed. We can go and live in a rose sprinkled cottage on the lake and eschew the responsibility of other people, but we would still have to empty the bins at night and pull our own slimy horrible hair out of the plughole in the shower. No matter what work we do, there is a process of repetition essential to creation or progress,and it doesn't make any difference whether it is exactly what we dreamed of doing as a starry eyed teenager or a career we crawled our way into after the turmoil that is children. It doesn't matter. All work is work. Housework. Shaping a happy family, writing a book, or building a house brick by brick. Whatever. It is work and what is more it all takes work. And commitment to the boring bits.And gratitude for the wonderful bits. Ah gratitude. Perhaps in the end it really does all come back to that. But not in a corny let's pretend we are grateful for a whole lot of nonsense no-one in their right mind would be grateful for. No not that. Rather in a this is the life I choose kind of way. This is the life I choose and there are days when it is RUBBISH. Days when you can hear the rain pounding on the roof and you know you've got to drag dripping kids to school, go have a tooth filled, take those heavy parcels to the Post Office and have coffee in town with a friend in the midst of a crippling divorce. And that's before you have opened the bills that terrify you or attempted to wade your way through the laundry room, knee deep in ironing. Some days are rubbish and that is that. Some days you have every reason to feel exhausted before you've even begun. And you know what? It's ok. These are the days The Vintage Housekeepers Circle was invented for. These are the days when building the teeniest of rituals into your day will sustain you. When you wake up and you run through all you've got to do and yes you feel your heart sink for a fraction of a second but then you remember that it is Friday and Friday is the day you let yourself run wild in the magazine aisle.Today is the day you get to choose your Trolley Treat (I'm having Methods Almond scented wood polish this week, what are you having?). That somewhere in the long day ahead there is a moment that is all about you. And so you get up. And you curse the universe and whisper a quiet thank you for your little boy's sleepy smile, and then you go downstairs and get the coffee pot going and once you are up things don't seem so bad, and though the kids scoff at another of Mummies ridiculous notions and the sun has dappled a doillie on the dining room floor, you carry a candle to the breakfast table and you resolve to carry that candle to the breakfast table every morning for the rest of your days, because it is your own tiny blessing for what is. It is an act of faith in this life we choose. And one that makes a chilly Winter morning that tiny bit special.