Stop the world, I want to get off


How often do we dash through life without stopping? Not stopping to smell the flowers, to relish a cloudless blue sky, to breathe in that indescribable smell of our child’s hair, or to give ourselves a couple of minutes to just be?
As an artist working from home, with an order book that’s full into 2014 plus an active two-and-a-half year old, two slightly bonkers cats, a loving partner and a house to look after, one of my biggest moans is my complete lack of ‘me’ time. So often I’m emailing, plaiting Barbie’s hair, sketching, cooking, washing up – I was even sending out client quotes while brushing my teeth the other morning. And when I’m not in headless chicken mode, I’m zonked out in front of the TV or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook to find solace amongst friends who are in the same predicament.

Sound familiar? 

One of my bonkers cats

In fact I’m so busy, I often forget myself. And I forget to take in those important things – just to ‘be’. 

Cuddles with my daughter, snuggles with my fiance, five minutes aside to stroke the cat – this is my ‘me’ time. And you know what? It’s more than enough for me. 

As I write this, a live version of Sinead O’Connor performing Nothing Compares 2 U has come on the radio. I seem to recall that in the song’s famous video, the single, solitary tear that falls down her flawless cheek was cried for her own mother, who’d passed away not long before. It’s very apt, as I sit here with the realisation just dawning that, yet again, I’ve missed the anniversary of my own mother’s death. 

It was eleven years ago yesterday that she died, with her daughters and husband beside her at home. And at four o’clock, when it happened, the blackbird on the barn (which Mum so loved to hear singing, to the extent she requested the words “May I always hear birdsong” on her grave) burst into song, and a jet – not one of those standard passenger planes, but a noisy, booming jet – whooshed by. 

And what was I doing at four o’clock yesterday afternoon? 

Working. 

Working on a commission yesterday

Listening to David Bowie, cutting a filled letters piece while my daughter napped, and relishing the fact that I actually have one of the cushtiest jobs going. I do recall feeling very happy and relaxed yesterday afternoon as I was truly into my cutting stride and making good progress on a commission. 

I was indeed just ‘being’.

So what should I have been doing yesterday afternoon at four o’clock? In previous years, to mark the anniversary, I’ve taken a boat out on to Loch Lomond (where I spent happy family holidays as a teen) and literally wept into the water; I’ve taken myself to Alnmouth beach, where some of her ashes were scattered, and screamed into the sea (one of Mum’s favourite stress-relieving exercises!)… 

So it’s fair to say that, today, I feel more than a little guilty that (for the second year running) I’ve bypassed the important day.

On Alnmouth beach with my little girl

But do you know what? Mum wouldn’t mind. She’d be happy that I’m happy, thrilled that I’m so wrapped up in what’s going on in my little family’s world that I overlooked that bloody painful day. 

I often tell a lot of my fellow work-at-home mums that “busy is good, busy is good” – especially as we tear our hair out over our overflowing order books or fret over what precisely it is we can do to keep our customers happy. In the case of yesterday, busy was good – it took me away from the moment and I was deeply focused on the job in hand. Mum would have been proud of me; she’d be proud that I’m doing so well and that my life is moving on, with my family and work to keep me busy.

I was fully aware that the anniversary was coming up (I’d convinced myself the 14th was tomorrow) and we are heading to Northumberland for a caravan holiday this weekend, where I’ll get to spend a bit of quiet time on the beaches that are important to me and my family. 

But in the meantime, I will carry on being busy; carry on with every day life; carry on working, playing, jumping in puddles with my daughter, carry on cooking, shopping, eating and doing all those ordinary things. Because that would’ve made Mum happy. 

Puddle jumping – nothing beats it

They say time is a healer. I’ve so often disagreed. But perhaps – just perhaps – the distance that time brings has brought a little healing. 

Amongst all the rushing about, stopping just for a few moments to enjoy that special song on the radio, to dance with your little one, to give your lover a squeeze, to read a chapter of that book you’ve been putting off for ages or listen to the birds sing… Well, it’s enough. Just enough to bring you back to yourself, to make the world stop spinning and the clocks stop ticking. 

And it’s so important to do that. Because it could all be gone in a heartbeat.

I don’t know if you know the Auden poem. But Mum was my North, my South, my East and West. She still is, and not a day goes by when I don’t think of her. Which is why I would usually beat myself up about forgetting yesterday. But my compass has realigned now, to include other important people who truly are my world – my entire universe. As Mum herself would say: “Life goes on”. As always, she was right.

Seeking peace at the beach

And guess what? I should be working right now. Take a deep breath, and back to it I guess…

3 thoughts on “Stop the world, I want to get off

  1. Init1972 says:

    Such an inspiring piece of writing!

    Since being diagnosed with M.E. I have had to slow down and now fill my day with the simpler things including listening to the birds, smelling the fresh air after a rainfall etc.

    Your mum will be so proud of you….

    Thank you for sharing xxx

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