Life, being life, throws humans one big question way before we can answer it. Evicted from the warmth. Thrust, wailing, into the world, aware suddenly that we ‘are’ and then afraid that we might not be, the first thing we are seeking in our caregiver’s eyes once our own have truly opened, is some reassurance of our being real. “Are we here?” is how we might articulate this. If we are lucky then someone sticks around and looks back at us as we learn to look at them – meaning, ‘yes we are’.
Congratulations, you have arrived.
We learn to stand and talk, but those inarticulate, imperfect exchanges repeat throughout our lives. That search for self, for meaning is part of what is happening if you ever start writing without a goal in mind. As I did, five years ago. Putting down words without knowing why except that it had to happen. It was a sense making exercise – a rhythm beaten out against the cell of my perception. Whether it was published or folded up and thrown away in a bottle, the statements and the questions were the same as before I had language to say them: Are we here? OK, then why? And what next?
I hope you are still reading because after the long, existential preamble the reason I am writing this is to thank you for doing so. In particular the subscribers to the site, the responders to the posts and the Twitter faithful. I wrote, and by reading you answered. You said it was real, and though unknown to me in the beginning you are a reason why. I was looking for proof, and the attention you paid was the evidence required to continue. Now the book is upon us, all kinds of people will be coming on the ride but before opening up the cabin for general boarding I wanted to thank you. Here’s what the book will look like – more or less. It is very much yours, although you will still have to pay for it – life having not just questions but ironies too.
You may pre-order it here: https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/the-reluctant-carer/the-reluctant-carer/9781529029352
The hereness of things is very much in mind at home where Mum’s perception has declined or advanced to a quantum level. Every mealtime is a new paradigm. Here’s one I call Schrodinger’s soup – after the famous physicist who posited that a cat in a box might in theory be dead and alive at the same time.
Me: “Do you want some soup?”
Mum: “If there’s not enough then I don’t want any but if there is some soup I would have some.”
Me (showing her the tin) “Do you want some soup?”
Mum: “No. Unless there is some.”
Me: (close to losing it) “There is soup.”
Mum: “Then yes. If it’s there”
She reads mainly poetry now. I fancied this was a late life shift in perception, some glimpse of meaning beyond the sense and sentences of prose. What I realised is that she can no longer remember the plots or details of longer stories – except the furthest reaches of her own. 1932 – no problem – 13.02 today – not so good. I wonder should I tell her she is in a book she might not understand? That the woman who looked back at me and let me know that I was real can still recognize me is wonderful – that she taught me to read but perhaps will never grasp what I’ve written about us… there’s an irony I can’t yet fathom. Life, being life again.