Last night I dreamt that I was drowning. I woke unafraid, only amazed that I had remembered the murky green and seaweed hair that had swum through my unconscious visions; I rarely remember my dreams. I often wake in slurred haste and can’t remember my name such is the leaden weight of comatose state I have crawled from under.
But I remember the drowning. I don’t know if the aquarium green of the water was the product of a pool I swim in daily which has morphed from gin clear to peasoup with recent rains, or the torrent of change which threatens – which has – subsumed.
It began a year ago. A Whole Year. I cast my mind back to a time of relative (for to compare my own and my husband’s, mine would be relative) orderliness. I knew where things were. What was what. But time has scurried on and I have moved. And moved again. And again. And I have left in my hurly-burly wake much more than the things I have forgotten. Or lost. Flotsam and Jetsam litter a tide of change.
I would like to say that I have found – that we have found – safe harbor. But I cannot be sure we have. I am not certain the moving has stopped. Won’t rumble on into the New Year. It’s why I haven’t hung curtains or unpacked all the boxes. It’s why I still can’t find the stuff I’m not sure I’ve lost. Change, says my friend Cath, is good: it keeps us on our toes. Too much, I would proffer, given recent experience, trips us up.
And so I find myself, as the uncertainty of our situation continues to clamour, clinging to the small habits that persisted in the Outpost (clutching at straws?): I walk when I can, I swim daily (in water morphed from gin clear to peasoup green), I spend too much time in the Ether. The irony is not lost on me: that I, in this indecipherable position, find something concrete in the intangibility of a virtual world, somewhere to lose myself as I trawl invisible shelves at Amazon which will, given the punishment my credit card has sustained, yield real-life gifts in time – as if by magic, rabbits from hats. My daughter, home for Christmas from Cambridge, nags, ‘Mum, you spend too much time on your computer’. She is right. I try to explain to her that it remains one of few certain things from my last life: the life where I knew where things were, including myself. It is a reassuring bad habit. I don’t think she understands. Until she allows me to read the first entry of her blog, the one which she says she is not going to publish (and I wonder – again – if I ought to be as mouthy in the silence as I am?), in which she describes the unsettledness that discombobulates her too. I had imagined that her life at University offered a rock, an island in the storminess of her parents’ roving, her own safe harbour; I had forgotten that even at 19 , even as you stand poised to fly the nest, young and beautiful and hopeful, untarnished by age and cynicism and disappointment, Home is important. Perhaps even more important when you aren’t there much.
And without a home that feels permanent enough, I don’t know that I feel Mother enough. I have not hung curtains, instead the windows are draped with an untidy array of mismatched kangas, as if I have strung laundry to the pelmets. The baking trays, which ought to be lining up on kitchen counters ready to be filled with all manner of sweet and flakey and cinnamon dredged Christmas goodies, are still rust-crusted in a cupboard (at least they’re not in a box I think as I close the door on them again). Pictures, stand on the floor, in ranks, patient queues, waiting for nails. So that – like the curtains – they might also be hung. All the things I wanted to do, to have in place, when my babies came home aren’t. I roam, unable to sit still, until the addiction to escape into the syrup of the ether overwhelms and I slink back to Amazon or onto Ebay (can I bid on Permanence, I wonder?).
I make passing stabs at putting roots down. I, uncharacteristically, put myself forward for the Art Gallery Committee (she, who knows little about art other than what she likes and what she doesn’t, she who loses her voice in real life such is the crippling shyness that hobbles her so often) and I gather all my courage in two hot hands and I take a deep breath and I fight back the instinct to flee – to flee from the Gallery, from Change – and I hang pictures (somebody else’s are easier to place) and realign gallery lights and make small talk. And very, very briefly I am anchored.
But it is hard to put roots down with any conviction if you fear having to yank them all up again. And it’s understandable that they wouldn’t take hold if not nurtured.
My daughter says, quite sternly, ‘Mum, you just have to make the most of now’. And she is right – though I believe her a little less having read her blog, understanding that she is being braver than she feels. But – as she confessed to herself, to me when she allowed me to read what she had written – I just want to be Home.
Wherever Home is?
Almost four years ago I wrote a blog post to describe the alienation I felt in early Outpost days. My Husband, a rare reader of these ramblings, happened upon my words that day, perhaps he wandered over to my blog to understand why I was flailing then, perhaps because despite the tears and the outbursts, I could not articulate Why. He came home solemn and sad, ‘I read your blog’, he said and I felt briefly mean for having caused unhappiness. But pinning my thoughts to an invisible page that day, lining them all up and sorting them into some sort of order, some tidiness, would, I hoped help, capture whatever it was I thought I had lost. And so I lay in bed at half past four this morning as the rain fell through a black and spongesoaked dawn and thought, if I gather it all up again, if I harness the chaos, the confusion, will I be able to make sense of any of it. Will I be able to impose some order? Will answers come swimming to the surface?