You get snarky. You get tearful. You cry on the playground and frighten the kindest of quiet, unsuspecting women. Your brain works three months ahead of possible actualisation and you have to stop over-promising that which you aren’t capable of delivering yet. But you want to please. You want so very much to please.
At the moment you can’t hear. You own voice is booming inside your head and though the whole world is telling you that you are whispering you can’t help but wonder if they have actually all gone deaf. You drop olive oil into your ears and lie with your head on a hot water pillow, hoping that all that which is stifling you will melt and float away. Because you are discombobulated. So thrilled with a description that for once actually describes your emotions that you want to tell everybody unfortunate enough to have to deal with you : oh, Darling please don’t bother me now, you see me, myself and I are discombobulated right now and there is really nothing you can bring to our rather self-absorbed party…
Every morning now your child wakes up with some imaginary ailment: his lips have got fat, today his knees don’t work and he will have to crawl to school, last week his stomach hurt to such a degree he was certain to be in need of an x-ray and though you barely believe in any of these debilitating problems, still you tut and ooh and ahh and dutifully rub tea tree oil into invisible bruises and swollen nothings and deliver him to an establishment that believes every word he tells them and promptly returns him to the domestic fold with instruction to seek medical advice for the pencil they cannot wash off his hand or the tummy ache that has had him bent double through a lesson about jolly little limericks he does not want to write. And then he is there, sitting on your knee all over again, interfering in the delivery of your work, happy as a sandboy and twice as healthy for his sins, smiling bravely and sucking the life out of that which holds the four walls of your house up.
It is a phase. That’s what you tell yourself. You have issued warnings about the boy who cried wolf and told school you will not be collecting him unless he is in need of immediate hospitalisation. You are done dilly-dallying with the matter, though what his teacher will have to say about your pint-sized hypochondriac at parents evening tonight you shudder to think. Because it is a shuddery matter. Presenting a united front with the Father of your child and trying not to feel outraged when he asserts himself as his Daddy in front of a teacher he does not have daily dealings with. You feel tired at the thought of it. Find yourself getting shrill. And a terrible thing is shrill because it undermines you. It weakens those lines of argument you have formed so beautifully in your head and renders you pushy and pedantic. It makes you look like you care whether he is managing multipication when truthfully you couldn’t give a damn as long as he is able to express his emotions and find joy in all the small things that will shape who he becomes.
Lately you find yourself at odds with public opinion. Where people discuss self-discipline as if it were a virtue, you can talk only in terms of kindness and joy. When those women who love you listen to your your self-righteous opinions about marriage and homework and X-Factor and kids diets and the future of the Conservative party, ooh and just about everything in-between, they take your hand and say yes, but not everybody is as strong as you and look at you sympathetically as if strength was the cross you have to bear. As if strength was the one quality most liable to isolate you from the cosy ranks of female comradeship. And yet it doesn’t stop you: you don’t seem capable of playing the game. You don’t seem capable of shutting up. Of keeping the most female of secrets or dwelling on that from which so much playground chatter can be derided. You worry that middle age will mark you out as a fully fledged cow. You worry that what you once thought of as authenticity is actually nothing more that curmudgeonly outpourings of the discombobulated mind. You worry that you are one of those dreadful women who love too much. And then you go on to worry that is actually more honest to say that your intrinsic need to put yourself first probably makes you one of those terribly dis-spirited specimens of the fairer sex who quite frankly never learn to love anyone but themselves quite as much as they should.
You see? Dis-com-blooming-bobulated. And nothing to do about it but wait for this too shall pass. And it shall pass while you pour juices over a chicken basted in garlic. While you run a bath for the kind of little footballer whose seven year old knees no longer work and seek out a top that says take me seriously to his teacher. It will pass while you stand bewildered in front of the boiler that will not play ball and crawl into bed with another 80,000 words of yesterdays fiction. While you pay bills and buy toilet roll and ring your Mum fifty times a day and search high and low for flat boots that do not throw your back out. This too shall pass when you learn to bite your lip, to rest easy in arms that love you instead of seeking answers to the kind of relentless questions that barely need answering, and for once, oh just for once, start practising what you preach.
This too shall pass.