This issue can incense me to the point where I feel like burning down a building.
How I roll.
When do I make the first of a series of videos for my new book? The day my hair looked like the stuffing from a 500-year-old rat-infested armchair salvaged from the Volga after an apocalyptic rainstorm, that’s when. It doesn’t usually look this bad – in fact, it was looking rather wonderful until my hairdresser, the Hieronymus Bosch of the Shears, decided to leave the salon for the bowels of hell, where she rightly belongs. I so wanted to film like one of those manicured authors with glistening tresses rather than, say, like a scarecrow during the pre-harvest burnings, but them’s the breaks. As Popeye said, “I yam what I yam and dat’s what I yam.”
I was married for ten years, and my divorce came through this morning. A big day, then – a mountain: the day on which a terrible incision has, at long last, been sutured.
I loved my husband very much. I loved him for years, and through improbable complications. I am no longer in love with him and haven’t been in love with him for a long long time, but I am not sorry that we married. Even knowing how it ended, I would do it a thousand times over because my daughter was the flower of our union and also because I loved him. He made me happy and then he stopped making me happy, but that isn’t a crime. In the end, neither of us was able to bring out the best in the other. Not true love then, but love nonetheless.
When I wrote my vows, I was very specific.
“I vow,” I wrote, “to make you as completely happy as I can.”
“I vow,” I wrote, “to search for truth with you and through you.”
“I vow,” I wrote, “to honour you, and always to honour your memory.”
My consciousness of the limitations of our relationship in this document is obvious to me only now, but my understanding of the importance of honour in marriage was conscious even then.
Ten years ago, two people came together and now they have come apart. The unravelling of that love story is a narrative ordinary in its suffering and sorrow, but the conclusion, like the beginning, is infused only with light.
I have a mobile phone. After decades of studiously avoiding the things, my oldest girlfriend bought me one for Christmas. It’s an elegant-looking object, with curious abilities – images that move as you move the screen, and so on. I have yet to register a number; I’m not sure I can handle the commitment. We address each other with masked interest and not a little trepidation. Can I handle it? Do I really need one? The really exciting news is that it also takes photographs, which means that I am – at long last – able to upload images to Instagram. This is mad fun, as I have always loved taking photographs. For about two and a half minutes in my youth, I was an actual photojournalist – no war zones, just authors coughing over vodka in dim rooms whilst pontificating about the death of art – but then my Nikon broke and I had no money to get a new one and so that all went to hell in a handbasket. Clearly not my destiny. It was easier to intently focus on my interviewee and get someone with significantly greater technical finesse and a refined eye to shoot the images. But now that I have an Instagram account, anything is possible. Who knows, I may even actually leave the house. Live on the wild side, carpe diem: all that. So do follow my account here. Oh, and I’ve updated my gallery, too. This year feels like a year of new beginnings, full and fresh and fragrant – and, like all roses, not without the occasional prick.
It was my daughter’s birthday today, and remains my daughter’s birthday in some parts of the world. A decade ago at 4am, my waters broke; she appeared fifteen or so hours later, a long and slender baby with a head the colour and shape of a grapefruit and a Dr. Seuss curl on the crown.
Then ignorant of so many aspects of the birth experience, I had not made the right decisions. My experience of labour was, as a result, traumatic – nothing extreme: no organs were punctured (this happened to two girlfriends who selected c-sections); my child did not sustain brain damage because of medical incompetence; I was not rendered incontinent – but it was long and it was bloody and I lowed like a Texas longhorn because I was in pain and I was scared.
When I first heard my daughter’s voice, that golden thread, everything changed.
All the books I had read, and there were many, warned me that I would experience confusion or depression or disappointment or blankness or terror or boredom, but I did not. I experienced a transforming ecstasy, and this ecstasy did not dissipate as I had been warned that it would; it lasted and lasted and lasted and it lasts still, imperturbable and glorious and knocked from its chair only by exhaustion and even then, only for a matter of hours. For what is a child but an excuse to experience the most absurd love, the kind of love that revolutionises all the world?
I ask those who would dismiss this as hyperbole to consider the impact on our world of the absence of love in, say, Adolf Hitler’s life. The damage we see in those around us, the abuses of our environment: all are due to lack of love and the respect that love entails.
In every man’s life, love should always be the priority: the preservation of love, the ignition of love, the inspiring of love, the celebration of love. Everything else is an illusion.
Love came to me in the form of my daughter. After I turned her light out tonight, I asked her to come into the kitchen. She later told me that she had been frightened that she had done something wrong; my request was, she said, so unusual. When she entered the darkened room, she saw that which I photographed for you below. “And this,” I softly said, “is what I feel for you, have always felt for you and will always feel for you, even after my body has blown away.”
So today, on the tenth anniversary of that love, I wish you the same abundance. Thank you for being there. I hope that you, too, had a ridiculously lovely Christmas and if you didn’t, I wish this for you: over the coming months, may you not only be transformed by the love you feel, but may you be overwhelmed by it. Strip everything else back in preparation. Happy new year.
For those of you who just received a half-baked message, my apologies; I accidentally pressed publish before the post was ready. So here it is: our day out at the annual fair. The abundance of vast breasts in the carnival artwork was somewhat disconcerting, but the food, music, rides, boating displays and skateboarding were excellent. The little prawns and I had a wonderful day.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MAMA
“Today, being a mother has become one of the most underrated roles in society. Being just a mother is no longer enough. With technology advancing by the second, job opportunities flourishing, and social media taking over, life has become fast paced and reinvented— no one now wants to be known as just a mother. Many women want to be much more. They want to have their own identity, their own life. They do not want to be oppressed by the 1930’s stereotype of what a woman should be. Instead, they want to be greater, achieve higher, and accomplish more …”
Read more of this review here.