“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book, or you take a trip, and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. and then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death.”
Hibernation. You know that is what you are doing and you tell yourself that it is permissible in February. You do not shop, you do not walk, you barely write anything worth writing and can’t bring yourself to go through the rigmarole of dating. Some days it is all you can do to take a shower. And yet how odd that your body retains the ability to sink into this black hole on an annual basis. Wrapping misery up in blubber.
You are sad. Things entirely unrelated to your world are making you sad. At the Post Office Batman Dave says something mean about Jade Goody, poking a finger at her face on the front of a newspaper till you want to lean over the counter and bash his nose in. You are a lovely man, but you don’t get it do you? But it turns out you don’t have the courage of your convictions and in a queue of people bearing witness to your cowardice, you nod in agreement and shove her beautiful, brave, bald head into a white carrier bag.
Oh that we should ever have to bear even one minute of that kind of pain, when even something as commonplace as sciatica is making life feel impossible. Everything feels difficult, more exhausting than it should considering you have so much energy pulsing through your veins: so much you almost suspect that this is the cause of it: a knot of energy pressing on your delicate nerves. You lie poker straight on the floor, comfortable for once and your little boy asks, eyes wide, what he should say when he call’s 999. Two minutes later you are sitting up playing Guess Who.
You do not care to analyze the cause of this depression. You only know that once the soft light of March flutters by you will feel better. And so you do not seek a cure for this temporary madness: you wallow in it because you know you are not alone. You see it written grey on the faces of the women everywhere. You eavesdrop on their conversations online and off, and wish you could hold their faces in your hands and say that this too will pass. It’s ok to feel this way. It’s alright to say it out loud. You who can hold nothing in at all. You who cannot stop wanting to Mother the whole wide world while your own inner life, dissolved by doubt in what you have to say crumbles overnight so life becomes one long round of the kind of starting again you secretly despise.
You grimace as the window cleaner appears at your bedroom window, invading your privacy and demanding a chirpy smile. I’m alright Mr Window Cleaner. Look, I smiled: I’m alright. Don’t tell my Mum you caught me napping in the middle of the day. (I’m not napping, I’m resting: there is a difference). You spend an inordinate amount of time justifying who you are and what you do: to yourself, to your Mother, to ex-partners, window cleaners and passing dogs. You think perhaps you just need a holiday. Thirteen years is a long time to go without stepping out of your everyday life. Perhaps this is just how tired feels.
You tell a man you know purely in a professional capacity that to leave his wife for you is bloody ridiculous. That he is compromising his position by calling you over and over and over again. That you would no more think of drinking coffee with him, than you could contemplate having his fingers on your skin. You envy the sanctity of marriage but all too often are given cause to doubt it: so many men all too willing to drag off the ties that bind on a romantic whim of their own conjuring. You are a single woman: a signed up member of the easy prey club. It is both boring and repulsive and worse than that it pits you against other good women in a battle they do not know they are fighting. You bake more cakes. Teeny one’s infused with the juice of two ripe oranges. You squeeze a lemon into a bowl of boiling hot water and crawl around wiping down the skirting boards like you did when you were pregnant until your son squeezes into the gap where he used to be, and you find yourself hunched over him, your entire body crossed over his: his need to touch you always so urgent.
You tweet, you tumble, you text, you blog. You will blog this later. You know you shouldn’t. But blogging is your own brand of sooth and nothing else will help. You are all too aware that recently your posts have been blessed with snark. Truth spills out your fingers and for that you are a little ashamed. Self absorption is never pretty. (Never waste the pretty). You need a book to fill the gaping hole inside you. The kind of book with answers to this degrading absence of pleasure . Books you see, find you, you don’t find them. They hunt you down and say Now is the time to swallow me whole. It is just a matter of waiting. You are good at waiting.