Years ago, I drafted a book that wasn’t published, and since then, my family’s been wrestling with a chain of healthcare issues that took priority over everything. For two years, I couldn’t stand up straight. For fifteen months, I could only fully use one hand. My OH has an incurable condition and at one point, all of my children were in hospital being tested. Trying times. Slowly though, through many hospital appointments, operations, and diagnoses, we reclaimed what stability we could.
During these times, I worked to support my family, while the (blood, sweat and) joy of writing felt like out of reach. It was easy to imagine that writing was for people with the “normal” life that we sometimes picture in our minds; a filmic vision of happy healthy parents raising happy, healthy children. In reality of course, there are families battling horrible pressures – babies having heart or brain operations, or cystic fibrosis, parents with multiple sclerosis or motor neurone disease, and I realised that we were, in what felt like a strange way, privileged to have conditions that weren’t worse – a thought that triggers a shudder of fear, knowing that they yet could be. Still, we work with “now”, right? No point in going through life afraid.
And then lockdown. LOCKDOWN. Holy COW. Do it all from home. Do it ALL. From HOME. Busy, crucial work from messy, loud, demanding, raucous home. Get up at 3am. Go to bed at midnight. Take pills. Don’t show up in the lounge in your nightie because ZOOM. Don’t kick a ball over the hedge because SHIELDING. Don’t talk face to face because FEAR. We wore masks but still turned up for cancer checks, heart checks and dental care.
I thought we’d had a weird ride until I saw a tweet from someone who hadn’t touched another human for over 6 months. HADN’T TOUCHED ANOTHER HUMAN FOR OVER SIX MONTHS. I haven’t had an hour alone for over six months; part frazzle, part gratitude – it’s been a long time since I felt the yawning loneliness of the untouched, and I don’t want to go there; give me constant clamour over that.
That six months has also been long enough for us to have lost several people to non-COVID illness and death – the starkest reminder that time’s ticking by while we wait for “normality”. Our children are growing, our old people ageing, even the trees are sprouting or dying. My roof still needs fixing. My friends are still having birthdays, and yet we’re waiting – on hold – for a “normality” that keeps, every few months, being pushed back a few months more.
As we all try to survive, wondering what we’d really like to be doing feels like a luxury more appropriate for easier times – except, even now, there’s a drive to be creative, to express some of the beauty and pain that we see, and to reach out, connect, entertain, and understand one another. I’m thinking back to that magical scene in Dead Poets Society, “The human race is full of passion”.
I don’t know when lockdown will end or whether the “new normal” will be even remotely acceptable, but I do know that time passes and bad health or death can catch us long before we’re ready, so I’m going to write my book.
I have an idea, a concept, and I’ve written a chunk of the middle. The story’s in my head, waiting to be dumped on a page and teased out to its full length. It’s waiting for me.
So I will
– not “somewhen”, when all else is done and I’m no use to anyone – but as soon as I can, I’ll schedule it in, wedged between pre-dawn and the first teleconference, in the shop queue, at the school gate, in bed at night, in the bath, whenever that time is, I’ll squeeze it in – because the diseases, the deaths, the failing of eyesight and stamina, they’re all stalking us even while we’re fit, strong, and waiting for something to tell us, “Go!”