Last week, I lost my temper and head-butted the lock stile of a door in my flat. As a result, I now have two black eyes and can officially say, “I fought the door, and the door won . . .”
So, why this act of pointless aggression?
Part of it had to do with the struggles that my latest book – which took 20 months to write – is encountering in finding a publisher. But what really fuelled the head-butt was the current absence of my two children in my life: I have seen them three times since Christmas, and the last occasion was 4 months ago.
The temptation to launch into a bitter tirade against my ex now fizzes at the end of my fingertips. But that is not my purpose: written expressions of anger are as stupid and pointless as . . . well, as head-butting the lock stile of a door. Instead, I simply want to say how it feels to be a parent separated from his or her child/children.
The current involuntary absence of my children provokes in me a sad and melancholy pain that, like the shadow I cast, cannot be escaped or outrun; it feels as if something deep and fundamental within me has been wrapped in hessian sacking and left to fester.
It cannot be otherwise, for I love my children more than mere words can convey (and yes, I am aware of the irony of my being a novelist and saying that). Fog precedes me, clouds hang above me, and I walk with my eyes cast downwards, for the world holds little sense when such a primal emotion as parenthood is left to flap and tangle pointlessly, like plastic sheeting blown by a drear and bitter wind.
In the days when I was drinking and drugging myself to death, my children represented something clear and clean to which I could cling while drowning in the sump of my own life; they still hold that redemptive, cleansing power now.
Their smiles are precious to me as starlight on still water, and each new achievement they attain – walking, talking, reading, writing, being able to identify all seven crew members in the film, Alien – fills a dry and hollow hole in my heart I did not know existed before their arrival in the world. I am theirs entirely and eternally: I would pluck the salt out of all the world’s seas should it spare them tears, and give my life gratefully to save them from harm.
I dedicate this post to all those who empathise with these feelings, and offer this thought by way of an ending: whenever I pray, or make a wish, it is always the same one – that my children be granted simple, happy lives, surrounded by happy, simple people . . .