Sometimes I feel like I know what life is, but I’m still not certain I’m right.

This time forty years ago, my mother would have been nearing her due date, a tiny me inside her and waiting to come out. This time ten years ago, my belly was stretched and full, my children both waiting to come out.

I came out late, they came out early, but all three of us had the same due date.

My great grandparents also waited, on a sea rather in it, as they sailed to a new life in America. Almost exactly one hundred years later, I stepped on a plane and spent eight hours wondering what my new life in England would look like.

It feels like there are a lot of connections in life, a lot of circles. A lot of meaning.

Sometimes I feel like I need to find more meaning, or I long to create more meaning; sometimes it feels like it’s been a long time since there’s been a Big Moment, or a Big Adventure, or a Big (hopefully positive) Change.

But really, life is a series of small moments. A few are ‘big,’ but most are ‘small.’

Life is a friend threading some string through a hagstone for me, so I can hang it from my neck as we watch our children climb up sandy dunes and jump down again.

Life is laughing as another friend educates a five year old about the band on her t shirt, blasting music and us singing together while the five year old looks on with a curious combination of polite bemusement and joy.

Life is trying to stay awake as I drive across the city late at night, listening to the soundtrack of Hamilton and rapping along with the lyrics I’ve memorised.

It’s staying up talking till 4:30 am with my wife for the first time in years. It’s how tired my body feels the next day, but how energised my heart feels.

It’s walking up a river in flimsy sandals with friends, as the sky darkens faster than expected and we laugh about crazy river monsters and howling monkeys watching from the trees. It’s a text from my mother reminding me that it was my grandmother’s birthday this week, even as I think about how her death impacts me still.

Life is remembering and creating and trying and being unable to move. It’s pain and obsessing and loving and messy. It’s figuring out how to honour and express your own truth while still trying to be kind and thoughtful.

It’s a lot of big figurings out, but it’s also small noticings. The way I feel when my kid is finding things rough. The way her hands look as she holds a trophy that is so much more than just a bit of gold plating, the way his words tumble out faster and faster as he tells me the plot of the latest book he wants to write. It’s observing how hard I thought it would be to stay calm when we’re running late, but how surprised I feel when I just let it go.

Life is my fingers on this keyboard. The yellow string I’ve tied around my wrist to remind me. The choice to drink Dr Pepper Zero this late at night even when I know caffeine screws me up and I might have to wake up early to go to a circus (of flipping and soaring humans, not animals).

It’s the texts I’ve just gotten from a friend we saw today, saying her children are vomiting like small explosive volcanos. It’s me, trying to not stress about an upcoming transatlantic flight with my children who may consequently be vomiting 38,000 miles above Earth, whilst hoping my friend doesn’t have a hellish, puke covered evening of no sleep.

Life is being the immigrant granddaughter of immigrant ancestors. Criss-crossing the globe, or running the palms of my hands over my belly, as my mother did before me.

It’s all the experience. It’s all growth, even when it’s so boring and I’m so exhausted I almost fall asleep as soon as I sit still. I’m learning what it means to really be human, and slowly understanding that it’s as simple as noticing, breathing, participating, and being.

I’ll probably forget this tomorrow. I’ll be rushed and I’ll be hot, we’ll be stressed and I’ll wonder why I can’t just have a few hours alone in a dark room watching Netflix. Then maybe I’ll get a few hours tomorrow night, and I’ll beat myself up for ‘wasting’ it doing ‘nothing.’

That’s hard. But sometimes, it’s hard being a human. I’m still learning. I’m still here.

I’m a hot air balloon with too many sandbags.

There’s a few reasons I’ve not been here lately. But here’s today’s major reason: my child was called a little ball of sunshine.

This sparked such an immediate response in me, such a deep train of thought, that I felt compelled to immediately write for the first time in ages. I kept the gender of said child neutral to try to disguise which kid it was. I tried to make it more about my response than about the child – but there was a couple of sentences that touched too closely on that child’s inner world.

I kept writing, even though I knew I wouldn’t post it. At almost ten, my children have a more vivid internal world and interesting thought process than they ever have before, but they are also grown up enough that it feels really wrong to share any of that here.

So that has bummed me out, the realisation that the first time in ages I’ve wanted to write and no one gets to read it. Suzy suggested another anonymous blog, which has certainly been a haven for me in the past, but I think I’m tired of that. I feel best in life when I’m being authentic, but too often I find myself holding back from writing things down in case I hurt people I love, or people I like, or, you know, people I don’t particularly like. I’d rather just try to get random words down again.

I’ve been plagued with a real feeling of inertia lately. That word has never been far from my thoughts. Not the objects in motion tend to stay in motion type of inertia, oh no. I’m an object at rest. And what’s more painful than an object at rest that actually wishes they were in motion? Not many things.

I can quite confidentially say, as the foremost authority of being trapped at rest, that it’s pretty shit.

I feel like I’m putting on a good game face. I still have many things to be thankful for and celebrate, but this sort of murky, sluggish state of being is always lurking in the background. Oh, Alison, you say. Don’t you know that lotus flowers, the most beautiful flowers, grow from murky sludge? Let yourself blossom, Alison, embrace your natural wonder.

I mean, no. Fuck you?

Life is messy and complex. Much of the things I struggle with don’t feel like they are my stories to share. Though they twist and cling to my own experiences and perceptions, it’s still giving too much away to write about them.

So here I am. Someone who craves being authentic to the point of over sharing, feeling really low and isolated and trapped in a concrete layer of inertia.

Age forty started off so well. An amazing surprise party surrounded by the most amazing group of women; women I’m so lucky to know and love. To be loved by.

I was feeling good. I bought a big ass wall calendar (I love diaries and calendars and notebooks, oh my, more than you love lotuses and positivity!) and stuck it up over my bed. I bought a silver glitter pen and a gold one. Every time I did something that sort of moved daily life forward in some way, I got a silver star. Anytime I did something that I felt moved me towards this unspecific goal of ‘having a life worth writing about’ I got a gold star.

Tried stand up paddleboarding (and loved it!): gold star.

Roadtrip alone with my wife, climbing a tree for the first time, accidentally giving myself a prison tattoo: gold, gold, gold.

Went white water rafting with my family, went out dancing (and probably drinking too much) with friends more than once, went to a casting day: throw that gold at me, baby.

Stood up in front of hundreds of people and told a very real, very personal story, despite feeling like I was going to both shit myself and have a heart attack at the same time: biggest and most satisfying of gold stars.

Tried stand up comedy, something I’ve wanted to do for ages: well, I mean, gold star for effort but I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. I’m grateful I didn’t bomb; I feel like making the world’s smallest audience of twenty year old boys laugh about my friends and their middle age incontinence was a true victory. I think I could do well at it, and it felt so amazing to be working towards something.

It felt big, but it also felt flat. And that’s where I’ve been since then. Flat. Sluggish. Hanging out with my pal Inertia and her friends Guilt, Aimlessness, and Big Ideas But No Follow Through.

Mixed up with all that other personal stuff that, for me, is too personal. Which is saying something, considering there’s probably not a person I see regularly who hasn’t experienced me crossing a line and over sharing something from my messed up imagination.

But my imagination does seem to be misfiring. I’ve gone from too many ideas and not enough time to desperately wishing for an idea, but even if I get one I’m too stuck to actualise it.

That’s how I am, here and now, sat in a library while my little ball of sunshine is at drama school next door. I’m attempting to curate the perfect pick-me-up playlist (suggestions welcome!) whilst also idly looking up the requirements to become a hot air balloon pilot in Britain.

That about sums this shit up. I doubt I’ll be piloting a balloon anytime soon, but by god if I won’t understand the intricate process of how to do so. I feel like setting goals was giving me purpose this year – the storytelling event and stand up comedy were both exciting things I worked toward. I need a new goal now. Ideally something powerful and true.

If not hot air ballooning, then what? Other shit on my list of stuff to do reads like the Who’s Who of Midlife Crisis – get a tattoo, go somewhere in Europe spontaneously for a weekend, probably drink and dance more, be an extra in a tv show or movie, go on a transformational long distance wilderness hike, figure out what bra size I am.

Again, I’m always open to suggestions.

Yours,

Alison

Age six is hard, for grown up me and younger me.

I feel embarassment for me when my kids ‘have a moment.’ I feel worried for them that they will lose friends or fail to make new friends during these moments in time. Excepting one truly horrific trip to IKEA years ago, my kids never had a toddler temper tantrum. I was secretly smug.

Yes, I think I talk things through with people (aka children) more than others might – is it because I was a counsellor/therapist? Is it because I worked with children for so long? Is it because I liked attachment parenting, peaceful parenting? Is it because I’m a home educator? Yes, yes, yeah, probably!

I find myself infinitely less patient lately. Perhaps this makes the kids feel less safe, maybe I’ve made them feel shame. I guess I have to admit those things. We’ve all been less than perfect parents, and I actually think that’s okay. We can’t all be understanding and patient and perfect all the time.

But no one ever told me of the guilt and worry that accompany being a parent. You’ve got these small people who are still young enough that you are the centre of their universe. And it’s intense and scary, as well as being lovely and amazing.

About a year ago, one of my kids went a little bit crazy. Like stomping off in a black rage needing their ‘privacy’ every single time we met up with other people. That child has come through the other side, and it looks like their sibling is now entering the arena of crazy. This child is whining and screaming and crying. A lot.

I find this so much more difficult to deal with. Maybe because I can see it is having, or could have, a very real effect on that child’s existing friendships. Also I find it difficult that my kind, easygoing, not-a-bad-bone-in-their-body kid is freaking out about shit that I find it difficult to empathise with.

But while chatting with a friend this evening (Oh, where would we be without kindred spirits?), I was hit with a bolt of truth. I wrote something like this to her –

{this child} just reminds me so much of a younger me. I was very, very smart but socially I was very behind. I struggled with friendships. This is painful on a number of levels.

It’s hard as now most people probably see me as suprememly confident, as funny, as smart, as really clued in with emotional things and human relationships. Those things are all true; they were not ALWAYS true. I had a very lonely childhood, but I think – looking back – I was really bloody happy when I was alone. I didn’t really have friends, and I felt awkward about not having them, but when I was home?

Oh, I was running alone through the woods, imagining worlds I miss now. I was writing endless stories in those thin, cheap spiral bound notebooks. I was playing with Fisher Price Little People until I was probably too old for it.

This child is like me. This child is intensely bright, and that probably adds to their difficulties. Other people may not see the creative mind – no one knew the things I knew when I was little. I’m lucky to see into the bits of their mind they choose to share; this child is lucky to not be at school.

My friend said, So what? Maybe right now they prefer sitting with the grown ups. That’s fine.

And she’s right.

I weep for the little me who had no grown ups to sit with, and who always felt slightly out of sync with my peers. I grew and bloomed and now think I’m fantastic with people. I can see that will happen for this child; their humour and kindness and creativity will make it impossible for any other outcome.

But right now, at age six, it’s hard. It’s awfully hard.

image

Honestly.

Yesterday morning I just blew up.

Too many little things combined together to create a maelstrom of angst on my behalf, culminating in me yelling my head off about socks. Seriously.

Then crying over a piece of toast, in some monologue of self pity. ‘I do everything around here. I make the lunches, I get your clothes, I clean up breakfast. All you have to do is sit and play! When do I get to sit and play?

The crying increased. Mine, not theirs.

I felt terrible because as bad as I felt, neither kid had actually done anything warranting my reaction.

Another gem was me effectively stomping my feet like a two year old. ‘I don’t even want to go out! I’m doing this for you guys! When you want to stay in, we do, but what about ME?’

As it happens, I developed a giant cold around eight last night, so I hopefully blame my crazy blow up on the cold. Because in reality, we live consentually here. We make compromises. If someone really wants to do something, we find a way to make it happen, most of the time. But that’s not the important part. This is:

I said sorry. I came into the lounge, still half crying, and said, ‘I’m sorry. You did nothing wrong, this was not your fault. I should not have yelled like that.’ Then I said I needed a cuddle, and I got a big one, from two very empathetic kids. I said, ‘Its okay to need help. Even grown ups need help sometimes. I love you.’ Still feeling like a wrung out piece of wet towel, I got into the car and we drove to my/our friends.

Once there, once seven kids were happy, I told my friends. In excruciating detail. ‘I dropped the f bomb! I’ve maybe said that three times since the kids were born. And just because a kid wanted help with their socks!’

And their words embraced me.

It became a friendly competition of who had dropped the occasional f bomb in what situations, how we acted when we were driven crazy, the sorts of behaviours we did. We laughed about it, there, in that playroom. About being overwhelmed, about parenting, about life.

And it was a relief. This is the healing power of honesty. There we were, three parents who saw the other two as fabulous parents, and then heard about all the tiny, five minute times of yelling, frustration, upset. We were not alone, and we were still fabulous parents.

I think the fact that we can beat ourselves up over these occasional blow ups shows that, usually, we aren’t blowing up. We are somehow holding court with seven hands and thirteen things to do at the same time. And we do it well, even when we feel frazzled and don’t do as much as we feel we should.

I’m not superhuman. I am tired, I get sick, I want time alone. Even when I know I’m normal, I’m doing a good job, it is still an immense relief to hear other people voicing the same thoughts as me.

So here we are today, twenty four hours after I got a little crazy (and eighteen hours after we bought bigger socks to make things easier!) All three of us are not well. Soggy tissues are multiplying, fleece robes and fuzzy slippers have appeared, bed pillows are on the couches. It’s silent, except for that one kid on YouTube that does endless reviews. We are all tired, and sick, and ready for a day of rest and recuperation. I may have finally stopped beating myself up for how mean I was yesterday morning.

And that is largely due to the grace and forgiveness of my children, and my friends. My sweet, funny, smart, honest friends.