When people ask me how the school holidays are going I usually say, great. It's restful not doing the school run. The kids have a chance to unwind. We stay in our pyjamas until we feel like going somewhere, build lolly dispenser machines using cardboard boxes, kick the soccer ball around the backyard, head out for spring rolls on Victoria street, you know, knit together as a family.
But that's only part of the story. At this point of the holidays I am also a shadow of my former self. By former self, I mean me, two weeks ago. It's as though through the process of tending to my offspring my contours have become blurred. I exist in the service of others. The monkeys have no interest in my inner life, other than to check in with me when they become concerned or suspicious that I am "phoning it in." It's true, every now and again a powerful sense of hostility and aggression erupts inside of me about the demands of motherhood and the difficulty of securing one fricken' hour to myself during the daytime (after a solo trip to the milk bar for a can of beans I am unrecognisable like I've just returned from a month long Vipasnia retreat. Present. Radiant. Energetic. Calm). On weekends Stevie's loving gaze carries a heartbreaking amount of sympathy. But to his offers of hugs, I can only yell: Don't come near me, I'm hungry.
I think professionals call it "self-managing".
Because I need to be here, I fantasise about being there. There, being anywhere. Only a few things keep me sane on this tour of duty: a night out on the turps with friends, brisk walks in parkland's and reading fiction. I am ridiculously grateful for authors, especially good ones. (Not you Kirsty Clements of Vogue editorship fame, your novel was so lame, so tedious I read it only with the thought it might be useful one day if I write anything that requires a working knowledge of magazines and/or eating disorders). Good novels, on the other hand, are my salvation. Outline by Rachel Cusk was superb. Formally inventive – a series of recounted conversations – it is so insightful, elegant and provocative, that I felt genuine wonder for how it achieves both a sense of melancholy and gentle satire. The story is simple. It follows its middle aged protagonist, a recently separated professional writer as she travels to Athens to run writing workshops. The book is a moving meditation on the value and role of relationships in culture and the catastrophe of divorce, while revealing almost nothing about its narrator. It's as though she simply exists. This week, that struck a real chord.