Hey, now


I had to check with other parents at the school gates if they, too, were struggling with time and the answer is that I’m not alone. I can’t grab on to the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years because they are grains of sand spilling through my fingers at warp speed, and no sooner do I try to grasp a handful to make sense of it, the tide comes in and deposits more.

Wise texts tell you that the only thing you can rely on is change. We are all precarious on these shifting sand dunes, and no matter where we build our castle, it will get washed away. I don’t know if it’s helpful to understand this or not. We are to Be Here Now, as the delightfully psychedelic 1971 book by Ram Dass advises.

How? At the weekend, I met a stressed-out corporate lawyer who has decided the way to do it is to go to Holland and take some psilocybin. ‘It will get me there quicker,’ he said confidently. ‘I’ve done my research.’ Perhaps it will – and Ram Dass famously tried this route also, simply calling it ‘getting high’ and ultimately concluding that ‘love is the most powerful medicine.’

But love, of course, does not exclusively reside in the blissful escape of a high. It is in the mundane grit of plodding on each day with the life that you have created for yourself. It is in the small extraordinaries that you may witness around you, of noticing at sunset how the leaves of your barely cared for Monstera Deliciosa are reflected in the last rays gracing your hallway wall. It is in unloading the dishwasher for what feels like the tenth time that day, or the limitless embrace you give your child after they have informed you they hate you (albeit followed by they actually love you too).

I am very attracted to the allure of the high, the thing that will fix me, the moment that will make me – call it what you will. Often the present moment repels me; yet equally as often it does not. Stumbling around trying to make sense of motherhood, marriage, domesticity and – time – my brain buzzes constantly, pulled to the nectar of knowledge that might reveal the answer to the question that is existence.

But I already know that the answer is now and here and love; that any such knowledge only confirms what we are all born with: a heart that trusts it will all be taken care of, and a soul that knows its worth in the resplendent multiplicity of the universe.

…and continual change preceding death


I have morning despair a lot. This is when you wake up without bluebirds singing chirpily around your head, no sunbeam dancing on the floor ready to shine on you and no soundtrack like ‘oh what a beautiful morning I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going my way’ or whatever.

On one such morning (okay, it was this morning) I asked Google (yep, yes I did – I asked Google) ‘What is the meaning of life?’ As I get older, I conclude that Google is as likely to have this answer as any other entity – as the stars, as the grass, as the moon, as the gurgle of a baby, the hug of someone you love or hot mozzarella dripping off a freshly baked pizza.

It gave me a nifty noun definition that culminated in the mighty tailwind of ‘…and continual change preceding death.’

I snapped my eyes open and jumped out of bed: yes, that’s it, I thought. That is what I’m struggling with all the time. It’s this business of continual change preceding death with no pause button indicated on the great manufacturer’s (aka the Wizard of Oz, or an amply bearded man with a generally benevolent disposition and foul temper, or a dancing twisted ladder of pure energy or – I don’t know) instructions.

So we must trot along, or be dragged along, or swim ahead, or grab on to something, or in our best moments, glide through with the awe-inspiring elegance of eagles, flying high and flapping our wings the least. When I think about how we are destined for continual change preceding death and that is life it becomes so obvious to me that my unhappiness at the moment is that I am simply refusing to believe it.

I won’t change, I won’t move, I won’t get older, things must stay the same, my babies must always say tut instead of put and lello or lero instead of yellow, I won’t let my hair go grey, I won’t dare cross – I am scared to cross – the vast land of middle-age because continual change preceding death is terrifying to me.

If I climb this mountain, what is on the other side, I’d like to know? If I start to embrace change instead of resisting it, what will happen?

What is this exquisite bittersweet time that we have been given here on earth? Why is such joy wrapped up in such merciless change? I circle back to: what is the point of it all?

I’d like to have the answer. I’d like to at least stop looking for the answer. I know, somehow, that the answer, as articulated through various poets and sages through time, is probably here, now and yet – there – it’s gone. Again.

The Great Escape

Life, Motherhood

He leans nonchalantly against the lamppost, hands stuffed in his pockets, one eye slightly squinting as he surveys the scene around him.

‘How are you feeling?’ I say to my son. A slight shrug of the shoulder, one hand runs through his recently cut hair. ‘Actually…’ he looks around again, the crowds of children returning from their summer holidays, the parents chattering, the new little ones starting school.

‘…I’m pretty bored. Yeh.’

‘You are bored?’

‘Yeh. I’m pretty bored.’ He glances around slowly again, hands moving deeper into his pockets. Steve McQueen has nothing on him. If he weren’t five, I’d expect him to take a pack of cigarettes from his rolled-up T-shirt sleeve and light up.

That lump in your throat you get when it strikes you how big your children are getting was already present, stuck there since the seven-year-old had ushered me away from the school entrance, not even allowing a hug, no backward glance. The nine-year-old, at least, tolerated a kiss on the cheek, taking it with a good-natured smile and thumbs up.

The youngest and me had struck up a deal. When we got to the school gates, I would immediately leave. I would pretend he was on his own, and I wouldn’t even say goodbye. Ok, I had said. You might change your mind when you get to the gates.

So here we are. As I stand back, making moves to go, I watch him, this pretty bored small boy. How he has so many enormous feelings going back to school, how excited he is to see his friends, how scared he is to go in the gates by himself, how tired he is from a sleepless, hectic summer. How full of hope and curiosity he is. He is replete with it, a fat pod of potential percolating, ready to pour himself into his world.

This is all too much for someone so young. He has to say he is bored. It is the only non-threatening, almost-neutral adjective he can pluck out of the air to describe his overwhelm.

I know this, and I hover close by.

‘Mum!’ he shouts. ‘It’s alright if you stay.’

He slips his hand into mine and buries his face briefly into the top of my leg, and Steve McQueen retreats from sight as he strolls into another year.

The ‘now’ principle


Life works on the principle of now, someone wise reminded me yesterday. It doesn’t work on the past principle and it does not work on the future principle, he said. It works on the now principle.

So far, so obvious. And yet glimpse inside your head – now – and what the hell is going on? For my part, I am treading in a near-constant mire of the past. When I escape from that, cleaning down the slicks of thick memory mud stuck on my boots, I seek respite in the future.

Sometimes, it is grim, and a voice tells me there is tragedy down the line. (Note: Of course there is tragedy down the line. Duh.) At other times, it’s a blur of joy. A kaleidoscope of intoxicating experience, soundtracked to the hum of my favourite Joni Mitchell line from her 1971 song, Carey: ‘Come on down to the Mermaid Cafe and I will buy you a bottle of wine/And we’ll laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down.’ There are heady conversations, lingering hugs. There is laughter, good food eaten with people I love. There are books to be written, mountains to be climbed. There is the sweet salt of the sea to be felt on my skin, the joyful screams of children living and laughing in the background. There is sun pouring into my eager cells, roasting my luxuriating body as I giggle and sip a fizzy slurp of something delicious, squinting up into the brilliant blue sky. There is heart-bursting pride as I watch the souls that I gave birth to become who they are and bathe in all the gifts that they have been born with.

But that is not now. What is now? For me, it’s listening to this man-and-boy chatter outside the window: ‘Get your wellie boots on/Whose boots are these?/All mine, don’t touch it!/Dada those are mine!/Heee-eey!/Don’t kick me!/I’m gettin’ ready…/You are getting ready by doing what – standing there?’

The sun streams through the window, the day is bursting with beauty. My sons and husband are planting flowers in the garden below. My fingers tap on this keyboard. My stomach growls. I am hungry. I am happy. I am alive.