Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Just call me Elle

I'm having a supermodel moment. It's not that I'm suddenly tall, slender and toned. My hair is still cropped short, my eyes are still wrinkly around the edges, my skin is still tan only in odd patches. But these days, as recommended by Elle MacPherson, I'm pretty much reading only what I have written.

Here on the desk in front of me, not quite obscuring the monitor, is a pile of books waiting. There, on my bedhead, is another. They are studded with bookmarks, but only a few pages in. Week after week I took one book to the physio, clumsily holding it with my left hand and trying to turn the pages as my damaged right hand was zapped by a machine. Nowhere near finishing, after a while I took a different book in just so the physio had something new to ask about.

Because my life is all about 'or'. I have short times without children, and in them I can either read or write; read or exercise; read or talk with my husband or friends. And time and again, I am choosing to write, because I have a desperate need to express myself; choosing to exercise, because without a good run I get foully grumpy; choosing to chat, because I have family and friends who love to drop round. I am grateful for the time to write, the chance to run, the comfortable chats, and yet...

And yet. I haven't read a whole book for a month or two. Just a few pages here, a short poem there. Kids' books galore, of course. And the words I have written.

Just for an hour, just for a day, I would love to be free from the 'or'. I want a few 'and's in my life. I want to read AND write AND run AND talk with friends AND have time to sit in a cafe and look at people. I want a life of leisure, with a nanny AND a housekeeper AND a chauffeur AND a cook AND a gardener. I will sit in my spire, curled in a shabby old armchair, far far from the cries of children. I will pause between pages and gaze at the clouds, or muse on a spiderweb catching the sun. I will think Deep Thoughts, and idly scratch notes in a battered old notebook.

And then, with a shattering roar, my children erupt into my fantasy. The baby smells of poo. The three year old is hungry. Miss Five is huffing and puffing because life is so unfair. As I reach for the baby wipes, plan a sandwich, smooth a ferocious brow, I remember some of the wonderful books I have read. And instead of resenting how little I can read now, I find myself grateful that I carry such stories with me, constant companions through the extraordinary demands and storms and loneliness of motherhood.

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